Steve Jobs was famously known for being rough with his colleagues. Many excused his behavior because of his genius-he was undoubtedly one of the great inventors of the last century.
But what if Jobs' behavior is actually not that unusual? What if things like yelling at your colleagues is exactly the sort of behavior that makes you an effective CEO?
Research conducted by two professors at the University of Chicago and the Copenhagen Business School found that among 4 characteristics of successful CEOs or potential CEOs, having great interpersonal skills is not as highly necessary as widely believed.
The one characteristic that rises above the rest is execution-the ability to get things done. As the researchers found, anyone who ranked very high on execution was likely to be a successful CEO later on in life. Getting things done means you sometimes have to be, well, a jerk.
Mohamed el-Erian, the former CEO of money management giant Pimco, is about the most opposite of the word "jerk" as you can get. He is exceedingly polite, has an easy way when meeting people and speaks softly. Yet el-Erian said when he ran Pimco, which is as high-pressured a job as you can get in high finance, he would at times have to yell to get the message across.
"I've done it very seldomly because I'm not a yelling sort of person," he said in the latest episode of our podcast, Radiate. "But sometimes it's needed...the strategic yell is when you're yelling to wake someone up. It's saying `What I'm about to tell you is not just important, but it's exceptional and I'm going to change my behavior in order for you to understand how important it is.' Strategic yelling is something great managers do."
Did you read that? Yelling is not just something managers do to jolt the staff into action-it's something great managers use to great effectiveness.
Now if you've ever been on the receiving end of the yelling, you might beg to differ. There's no question fostering an environment of verbal abuse or fear is destructive to the workplace. And I'd be curious how effective yelling would be for women CEOs.
(Click here to watch how another business titan, Alan Patricof, tries to treat people with kindness).
While execution is most highly correlated with success, it doesn't mean things like being charismatic don't matter. In fact, the researchers found that the most successful CEOs were those who scored high on all four traits-general ability, charisma, execution and strategy.
Luckily, none of these traits are unteachable. Perhaps a next line of business is the CEO Charm School.