“Those with leadership presence act and carry themselves differently than most. They exude confidence and are comfortable in their own skin. Individuals who have leadership presence aren’t intimidated by title or position. They act like they belong in the room. They are articulate. They portray a CEO-like image. They act presidential. They know how to communicate and say the right things. And most importantly, they deliver on what they say. They perform.” —From the book: Many Parts, One Body, pg. 69.
When I’m working with teams and/or individuals, I sometimes find it useful to start them off with a challenge related to the particular situation at hand. Frequently, I give teams a new paradigm: Becoming Your Own CEO. Why? Not to entertain thoughts about climbing the corporate ladder. But because I wanted to find a way to get individuals to revisit, regain, re-ignite, or even maintain their overall sense of happiness and personal satisfaction in the workplace. Ultimately, having individuals reflect on being a CEO and share their thoughts within the exercise helped to renew their sense of control and self worth, which is cause for celebration: these elements are essential when setting out to achieve goals.
In a relative way, being a CEO has nothing to do with title or position and everything to do with mindset, attitudes and actions. Think about it: what if your entire company was wholly dependent upon your every decision? Would you go about doing your work in the same way, or would you do it differently? Would your areas of focus change? Where would you spend most of your time and energy?
Looking at it this way, you can see how you are already your own CEO, if not professionally, at least domestically. At home or outside of work, you are always making executive-like decisions, for yourself and/or your family. So why not start exhibiting yourself in CEO-like fashion regardless of if you’re at home or work?
I challenge you, then, to act as if you were the CEO of the workplace with every challenge and decision that arises. Among the CEOs, company owners and executives I have been blessed to have worked alongside, common messages are heard and repeated that help guide their decision-making process:
- Treat company money as if it were your own money. Where would you invest? How would you spend it?
- As hard as it is to do, determine what’s best for the company versus what is best for you. Objectivity is the goal and sometimes self-preservation needs to become the second priority.
- Think win-win as much as possible. There will be perceived losers at times. Make sure you’ve exhausted all angles before coming to decisions.
- Focus on the right call and not always on how you feel about the right call. If not careful, how someone feels can absolutely get in the way of the decision making process.
Carry yourself like a CEO. I want to be clear: carrying yourself like a CEO does not mean you are arrogant and pompous. Ideal CEOs are not arrogant or pompous, but they are confident, poised and act like they belong in the room. Do you act and carry yourself like you belong in the room? Any room, regardless of how much title is in the room? If you want to be treated as an equal, you must be willing to carry yourself as an equal. Here’s a fun exercise: The next time you go into a public setting, like a restaurant, see if you can size up the room and determine who carries themselves with confidence, poise and respect.
Hold yourself accountable like a CEO. There is not one role I know in a company that comes with as much pressure to perform and deliver than the CEO position. Truly being CEO of a company is a tall order that requires you have the gumption and courage to fill the shoes no matter what size they might be. Candidly, not everyone is cut out for the position. You have to be willing to subject yourself to the fire on a daily basis, both from inside and outside the company. You have to be willing to lay yourself out there and be subject to both criticism and praise. When times are good, you get the brunt of the credit. When times are bad, you get the brunt of the blame. And you wonder why CEOs typically are Type A type of people?
No one person should have to carry the brunt of that weight. We should all play a role on the accountability side of things. We contribute by holding ourselves accountable for our roles and responsibilities like a CEO would for theirs. We own it, the good and the bad. Take due credit and receive praise when appropriate. At the same time, be willing to receive the criticism and adjust as needed. That’s what accountability is about.
Communicate like a CEO. Do you inspire in your messages? Can most recipients understand what you are communicating? Are you in the weeds in your communication? No one CEO–or person for that matter–has perfect communication skills. That said, CEOs typically operate under the concept that less is more when it comes to communication. Believe me: you would desire less versus more as well if you had over a thousand things to occupy your space like a typical CEO does. CEO-like communication is not only about content but also about projection. How do you come off when you communicate to other people? Similar to carrying yourself, your communication must project presence, clarity, confidence and competence.
Treat and interact with others as if you were the CEO. The CEOs whom I’ve been around who do it right treat their people with respect and as equal human beings, but they also hold employees accountable for their responsibilities and deliverables. This means they can relate to you on the individual level, connect with you, but also know how to get down to business when it’s time to do the work. Do both and you will not only be respected as a leader in your role, but also as a relatable and approachable person.
Now, ultimately, some of you out there might still be thinking…I don’t care about ever becoming a CEO, let alone acting like one. Maybe not in the corporate sense, but I would argue that if anyone is to be truly happy, they must have a sense that they are in some way shape and form controlling their own destiny. They must have a sense that, for the most part, career and personal satisfaction is in their hands and not someone else’s. That’s the essence of what becoming your own CEO is all about. Personal control, taking things into your own hands, influencing your destiny as much as possible, taking charge and not being a bystander. Do it the right way and everyone wins: you, your people and the company where you serve.
Leadership challenge: Take just ONE of the CEO Traits above and apply it daily for two weeks. I’d love to read about how it played out for you.