Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Characteristics Of A Good CEO

Even having been one for 94% of the nearly four-decade career I concluded 15 months ago, I’m still learning what makes a good chief executive.

Much more interesting and relevant, in my opinion, than surveys of what CEOs themselves think are studies that correlate CEO characteristics and successful organizations.

A book published last month by David Brooks gives a brief synopsis of three studies beginning with the 2001 best-selling study Good To Great which found that the best CEO’s were “not flamboyant visionaries,” according to Brooks, but “humble, self-effacing, diligent, and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again….they demanded discipline and efficiency.”

Brooks also cites two other studies.

One is a 47-page 2009 report entitled “Which CEO Characteristics Matter,” by Dr. Steven Neil Kaplan at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and two other researchers which Brooks notes, “found that traits that correlated most powerfully with success were attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytical thoroughness and the ability to work long hours.”Capture

But I notice the report also cites that an “important caveat is that different types of CEOs may endogenously match with different types of companies. In this case, the resulting performance may reflect company differences rather than a causal impact of CEO types.”

This was why a former counterpart in a nearby community and I would joke that I wouldn’t last five minutes as the DMO exec in his community and he wouldn’t last ten minutes in mine. In community/destination marketing at least, it is more critical that a CEO meshes well with the community and organizational culture.

Another 2001 study entitled Personality And Performance by Professor Murray Barrick now head of the Mays Business School Management Department at Texas A & M and two other researchers, according to Brooks, “surveyed a century’s worth of research into business leadership. They too found that extroversion, agreeableness, and openness to new experience did not correlate well with CEO success.”

Brooks continues that from the report “what mattered was emotional stability, conscientiousness – being dependable, making plans and following through.”

Brooks also notes that “these sorts of dogged but diffident traits do not correlate well with education levels. CEOs with law or MBA degrees do not perform better than CEOs with college degrees. Nor do they correlate with compensation packages, nor fame and recognition.”

So for all the folks who strut around annual conferences to impress job search consultants in hopes of climbing the ladder of success, it appears you’re better advised after all to focus on the continuing education and getting your organization accredited while keeping an eye out for communities with the right fit.

The rest will take care of itself.

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