Robert Rosenberg

As CEO, you are the Communicator in Chief. The responsibility for aligning all the various constituencies in the organization behind company strategy falls primarily to the CEO, but it doesn’t stop there. Just when you think you have communicated clearly to all parties, go back over your message again and again. You cannot make your point too clearly or check back enough times to make … [ Read more ]

Robert Chesnut

CEOs have to be particularly careful about setting ambitious targets and using powerful language to motivate employees. Audacious goals can create fear (what happens if I don’t deliver?), and they may be interpreted as giving implicit permission for bad behavior.

Sally Helgesen, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Business scholar Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic demonstrates, women’s confidence almost always aligns with their level of competence — or falls below it — which is not usually the case with men, especially at leadership levels. This is true primarily because the number of overconfident men tends to be relatively high. And overconfidence, and the assertiveness it engenders, can be extremely helpful to someone pursuing a senior position, … [ Read more ]

Martin Reeves, Kevin Whitaker

Companies and shareholders often focus on maximizing short-term returns. In contrast, resilience requires a multi-timescale perspective: forgoing a certain amount of efficiency or performance today for the sake of more-sustained performance in the future.

Sally Helgesen, Marshall Goldsmith

Successful people are often particularly skilled at coming up with reasons for continuing workplace behaviors that in fact no longer serve them. In What Got You Here, Marshall [Goldsmith] showed how their resistance is often rooted in what he calls the success delusion—the belief that because you’ve been successful, not only do you not need to change, you probably should not change. Because if you … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Excellent CEOs form a small group of trusted colleagues to provide discreet, unfiltered advice—including the kind that hasn’t been asked for but is important to hear. They also stay in touch with how the work really gets done in the organization by getting out of boardrooms, conference centers, and corporate jets to spend time with rank-and-file employees. This is not only grounding for the CEO, … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Exemplary CEOs combine the reality of what they ought to do in the role with who they are as human beings. They deliberately choose how to behave in the role, based on such questions as: What legacy do I want to leave? What do I want others to say about me as a leader? What do I stand for? What won’t I tolerate? CEOs answer … [ Read more ]

Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt, Scott Keller

Of the 50 most value-creating roles in any given organization, only 10 percent normally report to the CEO directly. Sixty percent are two levels below, and 10 percent sit farther down. Most surprising of all is that the remaining 10 percent are roles that don’t even exist. Once these roles are identified, the CEO can work with other executives to see that these roles are … [ Read more ]

Russell Fradin

When I recently joined the board of a public company, I asked them if they’ve looked at how an activist would attack them. If a company hasn’t, that tells me it’s not on their minds. What do you think the activists would be picking on? If management is not open to that alternative viewpoint, it’s not a good thing.

Warren Buffett

A Russian roulette equation — usually win, occasionally die — may make financial sense for someone who gets a piece of a company’s upside but does not share in its downside. But that strategy would be madness for Berkshire. Rational people don’t risk what they have and need for what they don’t have and don’t need.

Ichak Adizes

Representing owners, corporate governance is not democracy. Workers who are managed have no say in who their leaders will be. The reality is that we teach that benevolent dictatorship is the most-desired leadership model of corporations. That is the reality of our management education.

Bryan Hong

Corporate boards that aim to maximize shareholder value should use executive compensation not to reward managers for luck, but to pay for their abilities and the quality of their decisions. However, this poses two significant challenges: measuring management’s ability and ruling out other independent factors. First, it is very difficult to measure and assess the ability and quality of managerial decisions, which prevents boards from … [ Read more ]

Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey, and Ram Charan

The role of the board is often underplayed in discussions around talent. That’s because so many boards focus on strategy and compliance first, and limit talent discussions to the question of CEO succession and executive compensation. But CEOs running a talent-first organization must help the board see that talent is the value creator and therefore belongs at the top of its agenda. The talent-driven CEO … [ Read more ]

Knud B. Jensen

When it comes to an effective governance model, one size does not fit all. Context is paramount. Context is both endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous variables include complexity, asset base, competitive advantage, capital structure, quality of management, and board culture and leadership. Exogenous variables include industry structures, position in growth cycle, competitive force, macroeconomics (interest rate, commodity pricing), world supply and growth, political changes, and unforeseen … [ Read more ]

Jim Collins

If your company cannot be great without you, it is not yet a great company. It is merely a group of people who happen to have a leader. The test as to whether it’s a great company is it doesn’t need you.

Larry Jones, Joseph Duerr

Although activist investors are successful at improving margins, they struggle to drive growth. We analyzed 55 companies over the past 10 years in which shareholder activists had a significant impact on company governance and strategy, and compared their performance to that of their industry peers. (The aims of activist actions included business focus, board composition, business restructuring, director election, focus on growth, board representation, general … [ Read more ]

Ken Favaro, Per-Ola Karlsson, Gary L. Neilson

When a board of directors announces the departure of a CEO and the hiring of an executive search firm to identify a successor, the board members are also announcing that they have failed at succession planning.

Seyi Fabode

You shouldn’t be CEO if you say ‘I only work with people smarter than me’ and you do not truly mean it. That being said, and this part is often not said enough, you should be smarter than everyone else on your team in one thing. It does not matter what it is, as long as it enables you to inspire the people who commit … [ Read more ]

Jacques Neatby

CEOs have always had to address conflicts between team members. But this task has grown as each new member comes aboard with a strategy to implement and an expectation that their priorities supersede all others. Health & Safety executives admonish peers who don’t put safety first. Talent executives insist colleagues make “people” their priority or risk an exodus of the best and brightest. Digital executives … [ Read more ]

Lou Gerstner

I think that private-equity activity tends to come at the end of the corporate cycle, when a company is already in trouble, has been mismanaged, or is an orphan in need of new leadership. So private equity is another outside agent that comes in when management has failed to do what it needs to do.