CEO Leadership Skills: You Gotta Work at It!

CEO Leadership Skills: You Gotta Work at It!Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “Damn, I wish I had his natural ability!” Not so fast, buckaroo! 

Peyton Manning couldn’t throw a perfect spiral when he came out of the womb, and Albert Einstein couldn’t do math. Pat Conroy couldn’t write, and Charles Lindbergh couldn’t land an airplane! (OK, Nat King Cole might’ve been able to croon. …)

The same goes for leadership. Find 10 CEOs who are labeled as brilliant leaders, and you’ll find that 9.5 of them worked their ass off to become that way.

I’ve worked with hundreds of talented leaders (i.e., those who can craft a compelling vision, align the troops and storm the castle). Some have higher IQs than the average bear, some were blessed with the right parents, and some have a built-in cosmic level of emotional intelligence. But I have yet to meet one who didn’t work very hard at becoming better. They didn’t come out of the womb saying, “Follow me!”

I have, however, met numerous poor leaders who wished for enough natural ability to do what the aforementioned ones could do. They assumed their ability level was fixed and the others were just lucky. It ain’t so! (A great resource for this topic is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck.)

Luck plays a role in success. But leaders who have successful careers (measured by their ability to get others’ help with creating lasting value — monetary and otherwise) work hard at the business of their company and at developing themselves. This is lost on many wannabe executives. 

There aren’t real shortcuts to effective leadership. Daddy may have started the firm, and you may inherit his equity and CEO title, but you won’t be an effective leader without the work. Being born on third base doesn’t make you a great baseball player.

To this day, I still sometimes find myself saying, “Damn, I wish I had his skill or luck!” when what I should say is, “Damn, I wish I had his determination!”

With the end of this stinker of a year in sight, what will you do next year to work on yourself?!

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