Many believe that it takes a specific personality type to make the difficult climb to the apex of the corporate ladder. Though they dream of success, they don't see themselves as c-suite material. Whether you hope to become a business leader one day, or just be the boss of your own life, there are CEO qualities that you would be smart to master.
YPO Member Andrew Collins, President and CEO of Sentient Jet, has spent 20 years taking on increasingly challenging jobs. During that time, he has given a lot of thought to what he could learn from the best leaders he has encountered. "Taking on the leadership role at Sentient Jet was humbling. I had worked there for some time when I stepped up to the plate to lead. But then it made me reflect on how I got into a position of consideration for the president's job. What had I done right? What was I going to have to get right every day now?" As Sentient has grown 100 million dollars in sales and will see a quarter billion dollars in Jet Cards this year, clearly his mindfulness has paid off.
"This is table stakes in any endeavor. If you don't believe in something it will show in how you act or what your final work product looks like." Collins has witnessed the importance of passionate faith in many companies, including his. "There are days where I look at our team and our organization and realize that a lot of our success happened because people truly believed in what we were doing and what we were going after." If you believe in what you are doing, it is much easier to throw your whole self into your efforts. If you do not, people will soon see that you are holding back.
2. Be yourself.
It may seem like cheesy dating advice from your Mom, but Collins insists that it also matters for business. "People want to know who they are working with or for. What are you good at? What are your priorities? Do you show emotion? Do you care about your team or teammates? Ultimately a good organization will practically demand authenticity." If you always show your authentic self, you will never have to worry about feeling comfortable in your own skin at work.
3. Don't settle.
"We have high internal expectations of our service teams, our marketing group, our sales teams, and our leaders," he explains. "Don't let the important stuff just become a checklist item. If you instill a high expectation in certain areas it will pay off. Get it right. Sometimes 'Done' is better than 'Perfect,' but more often it is not, so expect more from yourself and from others."
4. Start with the end in mind.
A friend introduced Collins to Stephen Covey's famous advice. "It almost feels like an interesting brain hack. Envision what the end goal is, try to unravel the steps that it takes to get there, but start at the end point. I do this on a regular basis and it has helped in efforts to launch new products, open up interesting M&A discussions, or lead to additional talent in our organization." As Covey knew, a clear vision is the best path to creating the future you want.
5. Get it done.
Collins swears, "If you are seen as someone who can get stuff done, reaching goals and accomplishments, people will look to you to lead. Try it." It seems remarkably simple, but in so many organizations there are few who actually do it. If you can, you stand out.
6. Listen...a lot.
One of the most important things that helped Collins was being able to listen. "Sometimes it may not be obvious that I am listening (I can tend to be fairly verbose)," he laughs, "But I am. And this has helped enormously in learning where the pain points and opportunities are in an organization or with a customer group." It does more than just make people feel appreciated; listening is an education in what makes people tick.
7. Look for potential, not credential.
As an MIT grad, he admits that a good degree or certification can be an asset, but it is not a substitute for competence. "Can you deliver? Do you raise your hand to volunteer to take on the tough stuff? Are you pro-active as opposed to always looking for direction? Don't waste time worrying about where your degree is from or if you are related to anybody important in the pecking order. Let your potential shine. True managers don't care about credentials of the past, they want successful execution of the future." Look for opportunities to let your potential and growth shine through.
8. Cultivate consistency.
"When it comes to creating growth opportunities, taking on a marketplace, or simply rising above traditional personal performance, being consistent is a *huge* driver of success," Collins insists. "On a personal level do you strive to always deliver consistent, high quality work? If you are not perceived as consistent in delivering on your strengths, it will be seen as a weakness, whether or not anyone shares this feedback with you." If you lead by example, personal consistency can feed the organization's ability to function as a seamless unit.
9. Know the numbers.
"Drill deep and find the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and then figure out how to make them readily obtainable, easily digestible, and, if possible, highly addictive." Collins gives an example: "We had an enormous amount of data and plenty of different opinions over the years as to what mattered. We streamlined and created a unified set of visual dashboards to show up-to-the-moment health metrics of the business. No longer did we need to manually pull data on a whim or wait for a timed e-mail update, it was constantly pervasive and front-and-center." Not only did Collins and his company manage to keep their data visible, they made the process pleasant.
10. Get to know the whole building.
As he leaves work each evening, Collins makes a point of saying "goodnight" to employees around the building. "This includes swinging into our Command Center when I'm in town. I once had a former manager give me great advice: build your relationships broad and deep. I see this as one way to do that." Find small, meaningful ways to connect with others at all levels of the organization. You never know who might one day be your teammate or boss.
11. Don't disparage the past.
"It's tempting for a new manager to try and tout their strengths by pointing out any weaknesses that came prior to their results," he warns. "But many people have contributed to the success of our company over the years. I have learned from all of them. I stay in direct touch with the previous management teams from Sentient - these are smart, dedicated career folks and I give them a lot of credit for what they taught me or what I indirectly learned from them." Be able to look at the past and recognize how it contributes to future success.
12. See yourself as an extension of the company.
Collins frequently has to meet with the media, speak publicly, address the organization, or meet with the board of directors. He says, "I try to always remember I represent the company." You may not be as high profile, but "No matter what role you play always remember you represent the company and people will see you in that light." Forgetting that fact has created PR nightmares for many employees, some of them famous CEOs.
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