The common perception of a CEO is busy, busy, busy. Someone who is charging from one meeting to the next with various handlers in tow. Someone who likes all roads to lead to them and thrives under the pressure.
Over the years as both an entrepreneur and an investor I’ve realized that the best CEO’s are not like this. This type of ‘busy’ CEO is not empowering their team or building a sustainable business.
In my experience the best CEO’s manage to achieve a sense of ‘stillness.’ Despite the very challenging situation they find themselves in they still have time. Time to give to the important things. This enables them to think clearly and also strategically. And it means they are not chasing around after things that are not important to them. That are not part of their job.
It’s a bit like a footballer who gets on the ball and just look like they have more time to do what they need to do.
What should a CEO actually do? I think there are three main things:
- Set and communicate the vision of the business
- Get the right people in the right places
- Don’t run out or money
It seems simple but is actually incredibly difficult to do. I accept this is a slight over-simplication - there will always be projects or emergencies that require the CEO’s attention. But I still believe that the bulk of the role should be focused on these three areas.
All too often a CEO will believe they can do something better than their team or don’t fully trust them to do it well. Or they will enjoy having involvement and influence across a wide range of activities and decisions. Or they wont have the awareness to understand their weaknesses and to hire and trust others to take responsibility for these areas. Or they haven’t invested enough time and budget into hiring the right people. Or their ego simply won’t allow them to hand over responsibilities. The list goes on and on.
When a CEO is able to step back and do very few things extremely well that is the way to build a high performing and sustainable business. The CEO’s that manage to do this have a sense of stillness - not all the time but at least most of the time. And that is the hallmark of a great leader and someone that I want to back.