Becoming (and remaining) a successful CEO

I had the honor to attend the Nashville Business Journal Most Admired CEO's event last evening at the Omni Hotel in Nashville.  Having lived and worked in the greater Nashville area for over 30 years, I knew a number of people in the room and had actually worked for or worked with a number of those who were honored in the various categories.

As I looked around the room, my mind wandered (as it often does) to what I knew about those being honored from both my personal experience and also from what I have seen and heard from working in this area for so long.  I will share below a few common threads that I see that seem to make a profound difference for those who were honored last evening.

  1. Don't be afraid to change.  Many of the CEO's in the room have worked in multiple roles and they have had the opportunity to try a variety of things either prior to or during the time they were the key leader in their respective organizations.  Some are more entrepreneurial while others have an innate sense of when to make changes based on both internal and external events.  This common thread can be found among many of those I saw being honored at this event.
  2. Have a strong sense of humility.  Not all of those being honored exhibit this trait, but many of them do.  I have had conversations with many who were honored and on many occasions I have heard them poke fun at themselves or allow others to joke with them.  Being able to have fun and role with the punches is an important trait for the successful CEO's I know.  I fully realize that there are other CEO's that find success without this humility, but this has been the exception versus the rule in my limited exposure.
  3. Maintain a strong level of involvement in the community outside of work.  This focus on the entire community versus just what happens in your own firm is a strongly defining trait for those who were honored last night.  I have worked with and come to know many of the honorees through their work outside of "work" and this capability and recognition of raising the tide for all is a great differentiator for those who I see as great CEO's.
  4. Know how to have fun.  Work is important, but so is having fun, especially with those you work with and serve.  Knowing how to have fun can be therapeutic and also can make one approachable.  Being a leader who is too stiff can make you unapproachable and most of those I know who were honored last evening are very approachable and they do like to have fun.

I could add more, but this is a good start for today.  Come back soon and I'll share some more insight about what I find makes a CEO, or any leader, more effective.