The suggestions continue to surface that it takes a different sort of person, with a different sort of personality, to take the top job. It’s easy to understand why: they just seem so plausible to so many of us.
The WSJ recently published another such presentation of the issue, by a guest author for Carol Hymowitz‘s In the Lead column. The argument in this one is that the CEO‘s job requires extra-organizational duties and skills that just don’t appeal to more “retiring” types. The number one job has figurehead characteristics that call for a more gregarious, political personality. Many senior executives would rather just focus on the work, and leave the limelight to those who thrive in, and even relish, it.
But does one really need this sort of “star” quality to be the CEO? Does the lack of it disqualify one for that job? When the situation is presented this way, with its presumptions woven into the argument so seamlessly, it appears as though it could hardly be otherwise. But, as with so many questions, it is when things seem indisputably obvious that we should make a special effort to make sure they are in fact so, and if so, why.
There are, indeed, distinct differences between the requirements of an executive – that is, a senior manager whose duties extend into the strategic level – and those of managers in the ranks, executing the work of the organization. But these, in the main, do not call for different personalities – just different preparation and additional training. When this is provided, the leap can be made by anyone who is mission-focused and reasonably competent.
But is there really such a boundary between the CEO and all others? And, is it one so striking that it bars all those lacking the posited special personality characteristics from passing through?
I don’t think so. Managers at all levels do what needs to be done. Moreover, a key duty of a manager at any level is determining what that is. Perhaps that issue – the question of what is really required of the CEO – needs to be scrutinized with greater skepticism, before we allow ourselves to be swept along by the assumptions inherent in the argument made in the reference WSJ piece.
What do you think?
Today’s tip: Speaking of qualifications for leadership positions, take a moment to read this post by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership. You will learn what such positions – and preparation for assuming and competently performing them – really entail.
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