Errors at the top

12 Mar 2004|Christoper Ireland

In conversation yesterday, I was reflecting on mistakes I’ve made as a CEO. It’s not an easy job, and the opportunities for failure arrive almost daily. Fortunately for my ego, I see other CEOs and senior execs making mistakes all the time, so I know I’m not the only one. What mistakes are most common (not including a lapse of ethics)? Here’s four:

Thinking too small–there’s nothing sadder than a CEO who thinks like a CPA. Both are valuable to an organization, but a CEO needs to think more boldly than anyone else in the company.

Inconsistant behavior–consistancy is a badly underrated virtue in a leader. It’s particularly useful at the top of an organization. A consistent CEO–whether that means consistently harsh, consistently wild or consistently calm–creates an environment where everyone know what to expect.

Rigid perspectives–consistancy taken to the extreme results in a staid, immobile perspective that can single-handedly freeze innovation in a company. I’ve tried to eliminate the phrase “we’ve tried that before” from my vocabulary.

Isolated lifestyle–to understand and serve customers, you have to be in touch with how they live their lives. If you serve a mass market, and you never leave your upscale neighborhood, never fly coach and never hang out in local bars, you’ll have a hard time really knowing what their lives are like.

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