Published on: April 18, 2011
The New York Times
yesterday featured an excerpt from the new book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed,” by Adam Bryant, based on his weekly Times
column of the same name.
In the excerpt, Bryant says that his interviews with more than 70 business leaders suggest that there are “five essentials for success — qualities that most of those CEO’s share and look for in people they hire.”
Bryant writes, “The good news: these traits are not genetic. It’s not as if you have to be tall or left-handed. These qualities are developed through attitude, habit and discipline - factors that are within your control. They will make you stand out. They will make you a better employee, manager and leader. They will lift the trajectory of your career and speed your progress.
“These aren’t theories. They come from decades of collective experience of top executives who have learned firsthand what it takes to succeed. From the corner office, they can watch others attempt a similar climb and notice the qualities that set people apart. These C.E.O.’s offered myriad lessons and insights on the art of managing and leading, but they all shared five qualities: Passionate curiosity. Battle-hardened confidence. Team smarts. A simple mind-set. Fearlessness.”
More specifically...Passionate curiosity.
“It’s this relentless questioning that leads entrepreneurs to spot new opportunities and helps managers understand the people who work for them, and how to get them to work together effectively. It is no coincidence that more than one executive uttered the same phrase when describing what, ultimately, is the CEO’s job: ‘I am a student of human nature.’
“The CEO’s are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students — the letters could just as easily stand for ‘chief education officer’.”Battle-hardened confidence.
“The best predictor of behavior is past performance, and that’s why so many chief executives interview job candidates about how they dealt with failure in the past. They want to know if somebody is the kind of person who takes ownership of challenges or starts looking for excuses ... Many CEO’s seem driven by a strong work ethic forged in adversity. As they moved up in organizations, the attitude remained the same - this is my job, and I’m going to own it. Because of that attitude, they are rewarded with more challenges and promotions.”Team smarts.
“The most effective executives are more than team players. They understand how teams work and how to get the most out of the group. Just as some people have street smarts, others have team smarts.”A simple mind-set.
“There is a stubborn disconnect in many companies. Most senior executives want the same thing from people who present to them: be concise, get to the point, make it simple. Yet few people can deliver the simplicity that many bosses want. Instead, they mistakenly assume that the bosses will be impressed by a long PowerPoint presentation that shows how diligently they researched a topic, or that they will win over their superiors by talking more, not less.
“Few things seem to get CEO’s riled up more than lengthy PowerPoint presentations. It’s not the software they dislike; that’s just a tool. What irks them is the unfocused thinking that leads to an overlong slide presentation.”Fearlessness.
“Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Do you like situations where there’s no road map or compass? Do you start twitching when things are operating smoothly, and want to shake things up? Are you willing to make surprising career moves to learn new skills? Is discomfort your comfort zone ... With the business world in seemingly endless turmoil, maintaining the status quo - even when things appear to be working well - is only going to put you behind the competition. So when chief executives talk about executives on their staffs who are fearless, there is a reverence in their voices. They wish they could bottle it and pass it out to all their employees. They’re looking for calculated and informed risk-taking, but mostly they want people to do things - and not just what they’re told to do.”