Though your career might’ve taken a giant step forward, there’s still plenty of (personal) work to be done.
5 min read
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You’ve made it. After all your hard work, you’ve climbed your way to the top of the corporate ladder to become the CEO of your company.
But, there’s no time to bask in the glory of your accomplishments. The business world is incredibly fickle, and if you don’t generate the results your company needs, you could quickly find yourself being shown the door.
While you can’t always control the factors that help define your business’s success, you do have control over your leadership traits — and this will likely make all the difference. With the right attributes, you’ll be well-equipped to boost employee morale and find ways to increase productivity.
However, if you don’t overcome your own personal shortcomings or fall into common psychological traps of new CEOs, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve these results. The following are traits that all CEOs must strive to overcome.
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1. You must work to overcome pride.
After achieving your goal of becoming CEO, it can unfortunately be all too easy to become prideful. You may develop an unfounded belief that you no longer need to look for learning and growth opportunities. You may dismiss those who challenge your own perceptions, instead preferring to surround yourself with “yes-men.”
I discussed this unusual conundrum with my good friend Brian D. Evans, who also serves as CEO of BDE Ventures.
“There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your own achievements, but you can’t let that go to your head,” he says. “Being outright dismissive of industry changes and others’ ideas is why we no longer have companies like Kodak or Blockbuster. As CEO, you need to maintain humility and remember you’re rarely the smartest person in the room.”
Putting aside your pride and opening yourself up to receive the input of other members of your team won’t just help you receive new ideas — it will also provide extra motivation to your employees. As you use humility to demonstrate how you value your employees, you can reduce rates of turnover and absenteeism, which will directly impact productivity and overall expenses.
2. You must work to overcome caution.
At first glance, a cautious attitude may not seem like a negative attribute — but as Dean Stamoulis wrote in the Harvard Business Review, this is rarely a desirable attribute in a CEO. “At the top of the list [of desirable CEO qualities] should always be the ability to embrace effective and appropriate risks and the ability to act on opportunities in high stakes situations — especially when the ‘right’ action is not initially clear.”
While it’s true that CEOs should use the resources and knowledge available to them to ensure informed decision-making, far too many let the fear of failure keep them from taking any risks. They overthink decisions and prefer conforming to past ideals.
In reality, many of the greatest innovations and successes in the business world and other areas have been the result of a calculated risk. It was a risk for Bill Gates to drop out of college to start Microsoft. The publication of Harry Potter was rejected by several publishers.
Not all risks will have such high payoffs. But, even when a risk doesn’t pan out, you can learn new things that will help your company grow and move ahead of the competition. Complacency, on the other hand, will only cause you to fall behind.
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3. You must work to overcome a pure focus on profits.
Yes, your company’s bottom line is more important than ever once you become CEO. This is especially noticeable when you find yourself answering to investors or the company board. But, this shouldn’t cause you to become focused on profits over your customers’ needs.
A profit-first focus rarely ends well. If you attempt to reduce your customer service offerings or use cheaper materials to manufacture your products, your target audience will notice. The infamous Ford Pinto fiasco came as a direct result of chasing profits rather than the best interests of the customer.
Though you may have more of a disconnect from your customers now that you’re serving in the C-suite, you can still tap into the insights of your other employees to understand what needs or concerns your target audience has.
As you constantly seek to improve your products or services in a way that will best help your customers, you’ll be able to build the loyal following your brand needs for lasting success.
A better you, a better company.
As you take action to address the above CEO pitfalls, you’ll be better able to have a lasting positive influence on your company. From motivating employees to appropriately reacting to market changes, overcoming common CEO roadblocks will allow you to guide your company to a promising future.