CEO Leadership Traits: I Thought I Was Japanese!

A recent NPR story highlighted DNA testing services (e.g., 23andMe and and how many people are surprised when they’re of different makeup than they thought. Some folks are disturbed when their life’s narrative doesn’t match the real story. It turns out that many of us are not as self-aware as we think. (To my great surprise, I’m neither as funny nor as good a dancer as I think I am. …) 

Without evidence, we’re often less self-aware around our leadership capabilities as well. I’ve rarely met a manager who doesn’t think they’re naturally good at hiring and reading people, for example. Interesting, then, that Gallup research says that 82% of hires are bad. Also fascinating that 65% of the people in America think they’re smarter than average. Further, 94% of college professors think they’re better than their peers!

A successful CEO recently illustrated this concept for me when he shared that the pivotal point in his life was getting feedback from a 360 process early in his career that people thought he was an ass. He learned to become less of one.

If you really want to improve your leadership ability, get some feedback. Most every executive coaching engagement I accept starts with me interviewing the person’s co-workers to get a good look at reality. 

Ray Dalio, the famous billionaire hedge fund manager and author of “Principles,” takes this to an extreme, with constant post meeting feedback on individual effectiveness — even putting cameras in meeting rooms to study behavior afterward. This is interesting, but perhaps too much of a good thing. (If you fed your young child too many carrots, you know what I mean. Kids aren’t supposed to look orange!)

This is incredibly easy to accomplish, but way too many people in leadership roles are bereft of real feedback and not nearly as effective as they could be. This has real consequences for relationships and for the P&L. It’s never too late. Whether you’re a new manager or a seasoned CEO, now is the perfect time to get the real picture. Understanding what you’re good at and where you’re weak shouldn’t be threatening — it should be educational and transformational.

Or perhaps you’re just smarter and better looking than 94% of your peers.

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