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Exceptional CEOs: Mobilizing Your Leaders

What makes an excellent CEO? It’s a question that’s often asked, but seldom answered. As with anything, it starts with mindset first, then skill set. We’ve talked recently about the importance of CEOs having a direction-setting mindset and being bold, and an organizational mindset where they create strong culture and stable, but agile companies

Once CEOs have set a vision and tasked their team, it’s time to mobilize them as leaders. I’ve been working with a CEO that has recently created a new layer of management with a sales leader, a general manager, and a marketing leader. Each of these individuals have their personality, experience, and things they excel at and things they’d like to do better. There’s beauty in that diversity. One person’s strengths are another’s weaknesses. But they all have certain attitudes and aptitudes that make them great leaders.  

A good CEO recognizes the importance of this diversity as they mobilize their leaders. In this new level of managers, they’re all competitive and want to win, but not at each other’s expense. In fact, they have each other’s backs. They understand that teamwork makes the dream work and the CEO has tasked them with the company vision and has instilled in them the core values of the firm since day one. This company is executing at an incredibly high level, achieving year over year growth of over 20%. More importantly, they’re having fun doing it. 

Further, this CEO has also decided to make the team the star. He uses TEAM as an acronym (Together Everyone Accomplishes More). Michael Jordan said during his NBA career that “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships”. While the concept may seem easy, quite the opposite is true. It’s not just hiring good people. It’s how those people treat each other. The power of the group actually comes from leveraging the strengths of each individual.

In this case, the marketing leader is incredibly talented and highly analytical. The sales leader is an excellent listener and has a way of injecting humor at just the right moment. The general manager has strong values, but is also a peacemaker. Whenever there is group tension, he works behind the scenes to restore the group chemistry. 

For a CEO to be successful at mobilizing leaders, there are 4 important ingredients: 

  1. Ensure that the team does work that only it can do. 
  1. Clearly define what it means to be a member on the “first team”. 
  1. Combine dialogue, data, and speed in decision making. 
  1. Invest in team-building regularly. 

Finally, it’s important for the team to establish a regular meeting cadence and get into an operating rhythm. The best CEOs use those meetings to go “around the horn” with each leader stating what’s working and what’s not and discuss any mid-course corrections needed.

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