If you think all CEOs are Ivy League educated individuals who set their eyes on the C-suite at a young age, you're mistaken. According to Elena Botelho and Kim Powell, authors of the book "The CEO Next Door," "Even the most impressive CEOs often didn't start out knowing they were destined for greatness."
However, many of us believe the stereotype that an "iconic CEO is powerful and patrician, a bold, charismatic extrovert with a flawless resume," write the researchers. This makes us falsely assume that we are not "CEO material." To the contrary, ordinary people can also become CEOs, note the authors, as long as they have the necessary traits.
Four simple behaviors can turn everyday people into powerful CEOs: decisiveness, engaging for impact, relentless reliability and adapting boldly.
1. Make quick decisions
Successful CEOs are decisive and are 12 times more likely to be high performers.
Steve Gorman, the former CEO of Greyhound, exemplifies why this trait is so crucial. When Gorman took over Greyhound in 2003, the business was losing money, according to the study. In addition, its parent company, which had just come out of bankruptcy, was ready to shut the doors on the company.
For four months, Gorman listened to his top execs create and dismiss plans to save the company but eventually he had enough. Among the many piles of data his team analyzed was a satellite map of the U.S. and Canada, which showed where all the nation's lights were concentrated (a reflection of population density). Unsure if his plan would work, he immediately set out to reshape Greyhound bus routes around these heavily populated regions. His strategy worked.
By the time he left Greyhound in 2007, the company reported $30 million earnings and was eventually sold for twice its 2003 value.
The authors explain that Gorman was able to "push forward" not because he knew his plan would work but because he realized that a potentially bad decision was much better than no decision.
2. Get people to buy into your idea
To be a successful CEO, you must engage those around you and inspire them to deliver results, according to the authors. But it's not as simple as being nice or getting people to like you. In fact, nice CEOs can be a drag on an organization because they focus more on being agreeable than getting workers to deliver quality results, say the researchers.
To effectively persuade people to buy into your ideas, the authors say to do three things:
a. Translate your vision and goals and be clear about your intent.
b. Understand the emotional, financial and physical needs of the people who will help you deliver results.
c. Establish everyday routines and habits to build relationships, which translate into action and eventually business results.
3. Deliver consistent results
CEOs who consistently deliver results and successfully execute plans are seen as reliable, according to the researchers. Once a CEO is known for their reliability, their odds of getting hired double.
"In business, reliable and competent people are cherished," write the authors. "Employers and clients are more apt to take risks on them and more apt to give them opportunities."
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson did just that when he created Virgin Australia, the country's second largest airline. The decision to launch this airline was actually the brainchild of his employee Brett Godfrey, who Branson immediately took a liking to because he was personable, detail-oriented and hardworking.
"[I] saw how he dealt with people in a personable manner and got the best out of them," Branson writes in his latest autobiography, "Finding my Virginity."
The billionaire was so impressed by his employee's work ethic that when Godfrey suggested creating an airline company in his home country of Australia, Branson bit. In 2000, Virgin Australia officially entered the aviation market with Godfrey as CEO ( a position he held until 2010).
4. Adapt to the circumstances
"To get to the top, aspiring leaders have to learn to navigate the uncharted," write the authors. They point to Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders as companies that failed because their leaders didn't adapt.
Their analysis also found that the CEOs who excel at adapting feel comfortable being uncomfortable. These execs understand that discomfort comes with change and learning. Furthermore, adaptable CEOs can let go of the past and focus on the future, much like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Source: Ruth Umoh, CNBC
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