What is it about other C.E.O.s? Some of them would tell you to work hard, ask for help, never settle, fight the culture and invest in people with data and in training and innovation and all of those great C.E.O. mantras. Then they’d tell you to listen, not to be a diplomat, not to be someone who talks tough, because—go figure—building trust and credibility and credibility can be tricky and hard in the culture of an airline, a coffee roaster, a flavor company, a media company, a public-relations company, a museum, a film studio, or anything else.
A lot of them would tell you to surround yourself with smart people. Hard to do when so many smart people run your business, but a company without smart people will either die or go out of business. So, too, a company without the right people will falter, and employees will leave or die or take their business elsewhere. It’s no easy task. If you have smart people it’s not only more fun to work there, it’s better and because of that the company has a shot at being smarter, safer, more innovative, richer, fun and engaging.
C.E.O.’s are a lot like 2.0 Harvard Business School students. Every aspect of their lives, every decision they make, every body language or touch, every innovation they are a part of, everything a C.E.O. is is trying to respond to and everything around them. It’s no wonder other C.E.O.’s want to learn from them. In 2017, there were more than 2,800 networking and mentoring events hosted by C.E.O.’s, up sharply from the number in 2016, according to the C.E.O. Network.
I think of this when I am considering a decision about my company or am looking for investors, partners, advisors or mentors. I want to find the kind of people with wisdom to back me up, people I can trust to be on my side and share my voice. Only if they are willing to talk straight, stick to the facts, not to sugarcoat things and take some of the blame, will I find them highly appealing.