We don’t like admitting that widely respected and admired CEOs have flaws. And we don’t like it when the very traits that made a person perfect for a CEO job turn out to be double-edged swords. CEOs in today’s culture tend to be made into icons, and people who work for charismatic CEOs, like the late Steve Jobs, generally like having someone in charge who’s undaunted by the hazards of the job and marketplace.
Even the most admired CEO, however, is human and fallible. Furthermore, the best CEOs can still benefit from executive coaching. It’s a good thing, then, that most executives are open to the idea of working with a coach. A coach can help the executive see him- or herself as others do, and can increase an executive’s understanding of negative personality characteristics, like these five.
1. Tendency to Dismiss Opinions that Don’t Mirror Their Own
Decisiveness is generally considered positive in a CEO. The problem is that sometimes self-confidence can turn into self-righteousness and result in intimidation. Sometimes people who disagree with their CEO are right and sometimes they aren’t. But CEOs who won’t even listen to opinions that don’t reflect their own inadvertently throw out a lot of potentially important input. A great executive coach can help the CEO understand when decisiveness edges into dismissiveness and how listening to other positions is not a sign of weakness.
2. Lack of Patience
There’s nothing wrong with being action-oriented. The person who is all talk and no action quickly drags any organization down, while the person who actually does things gets results. However, there’s a fine line between action-oriented and impatient. A person who is impatient can be blind to possibilities that, while they may take longer now, are better in the long term. Suppose new equipment would require a major retraining effort, but would ultimately result in big efficiency gains. The patience to go forward with new equipment and training would pay off repeatedly over the long term. Executive coaches can help impatient CEOs look at far more than the immediate situation.
3. Lack of Emotion No Matter What
Focus and concentration are amazing assets for the CEO who wants to fulfill specific objectives. Nobody wants to work for the CEO who is needlessly grumpy because traffic was bad that morning. But the person who can never show emotion comes across as a machine, and machines aren’t inspirational. People want to work with someone who can focus on outcomes, but they don’t want to work for an automaton. The CEO who is laser-focused, but who knows how to inspire others, and the importance of showing he or she is human is more effective. Executive coaching can help CEOs know when it’s time to lighten up or otherwise show emotion.
4. Self-Confidence Bordering on Arrogance
Self-confidence in the face of daunting circumstances can accomplish miracles, and it can inspire people to go well beyond the call of duty. There are times, however, when supreme self-confidence comes across as intimidating and arrogant, and this can work against rather than for progress. Confidence that starts stepping over the line into arrogance can cause “the troops” to wonder why they should bother, since nothing will be good enough for their leader. Executive coaching can help the CEO recognize when team support is threatened due to self-confidence that has turned into arrogance.
5. Minimization of Obstacles
Optimism is good. But optimism doesn’t require that a person minimize obstacles involved in accomplishing a goal. The executive who has been around for a long time probably has a history of overcoming major obstacles, and there’s definitely wisdom in learning from experience. However, not everyone sees obstacles the way the long-term CEO does. Furthermore, changes in the workforce, the market, and technology render some of the old school coping mechanisms ineffective. Balancing optimism and reality is a skill that the executive coach can help the CEO develop.
Great CEOs are inspiring and are worthy of being admired. They are, however, human beings like everyone else. Most CEOs don’t pretend to be perfect, and most know they can benefit from executive coaching. My extensive experience as an executive coach has taught me much about the hazards executives face and how to address them. I cordially invite you to check out my speaking availability. Perhaps we can get together to explore leadership and inspiration, and how it can flow from executives to their teams and vice versa.