In today’s culture, we tend to make CEOs into icons. People who work in a company with a charismatic CEO often have a sense of security knowing they have a “heroic” leader at the helm. It’s not easy admitting that an admired CEO has flaws, or that there can be a negative side to the very traits that made him or her right for the CEO job.
But it’s important to remember that great leaders are fallible human beings, and that even the most outstanding CEOs can benefit from the assistance of an executive coach. And coaches are generally receptive to coaching too, with a Harvard Business Review study finding nearly 60% of them open to executive coaching.
An executive coach can help a CEO see himself or herself as others do, and can re-frame certain personality characteristics so that the downsides of those characteristics are understood too. Here are 5 personality traits the executive coach can help with.
1. Dismissive Attitude Toward Those Who Disagree
There’s nothing unusual about a CEO who is decisive. Acting decisively and relying on intuition can be tremendous strengths. Unfortunately, opinionated self-confidence can turn into closed-mindedness and intimidation. Sometimes people who disagree with the CEO are right, but a CEO unwilling to listen to anything other than his or her own opinion ensures this important input goes unexamined. The executive coach can help a CEO recognize when decisiveness becomes dismissiveness, and why it’s important to hear differing opinions.
Being action-oriented is good. The person who talks but never accomplishes anything is a drag on an organization. By contrast the action-oriented CEO gets results. But there’s a difference between being action-oriented and being overly impatient. Impatience can blind an executive to possibilities that can improve results long term. Yes, new equipment would require technicians to retrain, but once they do, their efficiency would double, and the return on investment would happen quickly. An executive coach can help the impatient CEO step back and see the forest rather than just the bark that’s directly in front of his face.
3. An Overly Focused, Unemotional Bearing
Someone who is laser-focused and remains objective can be an outstanding asset when it comes to completing major projects. It’s great when a CEO’s work isn’t affected by whether traffic was bad or she woke up with a backache. The downside to the unemotional, laser-focused executive is that he may have trouble connecting with others and may not be very inspirational. People want focus, but they don’t want to work for a soulless robot. It takes a human to inspire others, and the executive coach can help the unemotional CEO understand when it’s OK to loosen up a bit and let others realize, “Hey, our CEO is a human after all!”
4. Intimidating Self-Confidence
Self-confidence helped Charles de Gaulle refuse his government’s armistice with the Nazis and lead an exile government in what was eventually a successful resistance. Confidence inspires people to follow someone into battle, and when it’s coming from someone who achieves big goals, results can be extraordinary. But there’s another side to it. De Gaulle, for instance, didn’t get along very well with the British and the Americans, and was chronically on the verge of losing their support. When confidence morphs into constant dissatisfaction, others eventually think, “Why bother? Nothing will be good enough.” The executive coach can help the supremely confident CEO recognize when he or she risks losing the all-important support of the team.
5. Underestimation of Obstacles
While optimism is necessary to motivate and inspire, underestimating obstacles can be a blind spot for some executives. This can be especially true for executives with a lengthy track record. Relying on what worked in the past is good to an extent, but executives must understand that fundamental changes regularly take place in technology, markets, and the workforce. The executive coach can help the CEO balance optimism with the necessary reality check required to evaluate and surmount obstacles. Being able to assess risk while maintaining optimism is a fine line, and a great executive coach helps the CEO tread it successfully.
CEOs can be inspiring and worthy of admiration, but they are ultimately people just like us. Most CEOs recognize that they’re not perfect, and that they can benefit from an executive coach. This is a world in which I have extensive experience, and I would love to be able to share some of that with you. I invite you to check out my speaking availability, and let’s see if we can get together. Exploring how leadership and inspiration flow effectively from the CEO of a company can lead to remarkable results.