If you’re a successful CEO or Leader in 2017, you know as well as I know, that you didn’t get to where you are today without a certain amount of hard graft. Every success story varies from person to person, however, there are certain key traits synonymous with today’s successful CEO’s and Leaders.
They are consistent: Every accomplished CEO knows that in order to achieve his or her goals, in business or in life, consistency is key. As the great Aristotle once said, “We are what we consistently do”.
An example of a great leader who constantly worked towards his goal was Thomas Edison, inventor of the commercial lightbulb. Edison tinkered around with over 2,000 types of material, tweaking his invention over 10,000 times, until his eureka moment in 1879. Many would have given up, shrugged their shoulders and simply admitted defeat. Edison, of course, did none of these things and believed his hard work would eventually pay off saying, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.
Like Edson, triumphant CEO’s are simply ‘chipping away at their own personal lightbulb’ until they reach their definition of success.
The message, if you too want to join the ranks of successful Irish CEO’s and Leaders – put in the effort regularly and work on the tasks that you know, will help you achieve your goals. Move that needle, every day, every week and you will eventually get to where you want to go.
They adapt well to change: Top leaders know that if their organisations are to stay relevant and profitable, they must adapt to keep up with the rapidly changing business environment.
U.S based food company, General Mills, creator of popular cereal brand Lucky Charms, are just one example of an organisation that constantly adapts itself, in response to consumer demands. (For those of you who aren’t aware, Lucky Charms are a sugary, breakfast cereal packed with colourful marshmallow shapes – definitely not for the faint hearted).
In 2004, then CEO of General Mills, Stephen Sanger committed to producing a healthier version of Lucky Charms. He declared that the cereal would only contain healthy wholegrains in acknowledgment of the recent health conscious consumer. Sanger saw the devastating effect health food trends were having on brands such as Twinkies and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and decided, rather quickly, to adapt his product to ensure its continued success.
This adjustment protected the Lucky Charm brand, and it currently resides within the top ten most popular cereals in the U.S.A. (Despite its brightly coloured marshmallow pieces and 11 grams of sugar per serving).
They choose and nurture the right talent: Accomplished leaders understand the importance of choosing and investing in the right talent. One of the biggest headaches for HR directors in Ireland is employee retention, particularly amongst the restless millennial generation.
Good leaders know that they need to keep their employees engaged and passionate about their organisation, and therefore provide optimal learning opportunities for professional growth. Admirable leaders also make time for their employees, whether it’s a 15 minute phone call, a personalised check in email or thoughts in a newsletter.
CEO of beauty chain Sephora, Calvin McDonald, was recently voted as Glassdoors highest rated CEO with a 93% employee approval rate. McDonald believes in a transparent, accessible approach to leadership, and even hosts a breakfast networking event for new hires (He has met every single new employee since taking the reins in 2014). He also writes a personal blog post every Friday, which he shares across the entire organisation, celebrating the big and little wins of the week. He believes this regular correspondence keeps his employees engaged, involved and feeling like part of the important process.
They are constantly learning: The brightest and most successful CEO’s are constantly absorbing new information, trying new things and challenging themselves.
Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, believes the key to success is to never stop learning. Nooyi says, “Whether you’re an entry level employee, fresh out of college, or a CEO, you don’t know it all and admitting this is not a sign of weakness. The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong students”.
The best CEO’s and leaders also believe in peer to peer learning. It can be lonely at the top, and CEO’s need that safe haven to share their ideas and seek guidance. Bill Gates credits Warren Buffett, an investor and businessman, for part of his success, revealing how Buffett taught him how to deal with tough situations and how to think long-term. Even though Bill Gates is one of the most recognised CEO’s in the world, he understood the importance of learning from a trusted mentor.
The majority of excellent leaders I know, execute all of the above and more. They run thriving, profitable and inclusive organisations, and achieve huge success, because of their constant investment in themselves and the teams around them.
As a leader can you identify with the traits above? Or, are there areas of your life in need of improvement to help you reach your goals?