Experience Speaking – 10 Must’s for CEO’s

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I was recently invited to speak at the Young Enterprise CEO conference in Auckland. The conference comprised of a group of very new student CEO’s – many in their first entrepreneurial venture, learning from the personal experiences and wisdom of those having been in a CEO space for much longer. Being a serial “early arriver” I was fortunate to hear the addresses of 4 other leading CEO’s. They all had amazing stories to tell and not one without struggle.  I listened through each message and noted the following themes that came through again and again in terms of what they would advise as “musts” for effective CEO leadership. I believe these 10 themes are relevant to all those in business leadership.

I have added in my understanding of these themes as follows;

1) As business leaders we must understand who we want to be and connect to this person daily with strong visualisations. I loved hearing how one of the CEO’s who seemed to just emanate power and confidence relate how he tells himself, daily, in the shower that he is all the things he wants to be. The reality is that few of us show up in the business world focused, resilient, determined and naturally strong in leadership – but we have to behave as if  we are all these things long before we are – this rite of passage starts in our own minds and strong visualisations are a fundamental part of this process.

2) Most business leaders will back a person before they back a product. This is important to remember not only for those looking for investment in terms of business funding but also for those who are looking for investment in the form of time and money (sales) from another business leader.

3) A #1 rule for effective business leadership is to eliminate our ego from the process completely. In other words, we need to get over ourselves and out of our own way – failing publicly doesn’t feel great but won’t kill us, and surrounding ourselves (with no insecurities) with those who are brighter and better qualified than we are, can only be a good thing for our business growth.

4) The two most important resources for any business leader is their time and headspace – this is a common one to EnQ and for good reason – our headspace is where our creativity comes from and our time is where we action our creativity. We live in a world that demands both our time and headspace from us- from all sides, and we must consciously and routinely protect these resources.

5) As the business leader, we must remain aware of what makes the product/service of our company more compelling than the competition – this needs to be an ongoing conversation with those we surround ourselves with. We must stand out from the crowd if we are going to get support from our market. Personally I don’t think this awareness should only come from the competition. Watching their every move can also waste time and we should keep our focus on understanding and solving “the problem” for our clients and our market – in a compelling way.

6) When innovating to keep up with market trends and planning our product/service we need to ask ourselves this question– are we going to chase the change or are we going to scale our product to where the change is going? The difference in focus between these two “places” could be enormous and I thought this was very insightful and experienced advice.

7) Effective business leadership is about choosing the right people to lead. These choices are more accurately driven by observing how people behave, than by listening to (and believing) what they tell us. I always choose those who have a contribution mind set in place of an entitlement mind set. Anyone who thinks the world owes them something is sure to be trouble – it’s just a case of when.

8) It’s important in business leadership to be in it for the long game. There will be disappointments, product failures and professional fall outs in the short game – how we navigate our short-game challenges will determine our long game capability and business landscape. The message was “never burn bridges”. Whilst I understand this concept I also believe that some bridges are better off burned – it’s how we do this that matters and why. Being too agreeable can also be taken as dishonest.

9) We earn the respect of our followers by being both courageous leaders and accessible leaders – this isn’t an easy or natural mix in terms of many leadership styles but the point of this observation is to lead with certainty whilst recognising and remaining mindful of the contributions of those we lead.

10) We should never be afraid to walk away from those who do not share our purpose – amicably but purposefully . This relates to theme 8 – Why is this so important? Because from shared purpose comes commitment, resilience, patience, and persistence – all pulling in the same direction. One speaker said that leading without a shared purpose was like herding cats! ( I didn’t take offense to that one – he said cats, not lions!)

These 10 themes present a snapshot of “leadership musts” from 4 powerful leaders – of different ages, background, and industries. I hope you find their advice helpful. Here is the link to my presentation with the compliments of ATEED Auckland.

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