February 4

A Short Story About a CEO – Are You a Good Leader?

“Are you a good leader?” The consultant asked.  The CEO was quick to answer, not wanting to appear lacking insight.  “Yes, I think so.  Some people have told me that I do a good job and if you look at my career, I wouldn’t have gotten to this position without being good.”

The consultant thought to herself; ‘he didn’t really answer the question, I’ll try another angle.’  She asked; “I understand, but how do you know that you are a good leader?”  The CEO could feel the challenge mount in the tone of the consultant’s voice.  “Well, I assume that because I’m running this business successfully, I am leading others effectively.” 

The consultant asked; “most CEO’s that I talk to don’t feel like they get much feedback from their team.”  He responded: “It’s pretty much the same for me, I don’t get feedback either.”  She came right back at the CEO; “I know it’s hard to know for sure with limited feedback but are you sure you are a good leader?” He responded; “I guess I am, I mean I think that I am, I hope that I am.”

Not missing a beat, she asked pointedly; “could you be better?” He said; “Well, can’t we all be better?”  She answered his question to the question; “of course, but could you be a better leader, and more importantly would it make a difference”?  Feeling the ‘heat’ from the questions, the CEO answered; “of course I could be a better leader”.

“What would you do to be a better leader?”  Now, the CEO started to squirm a little in his chair and he tried to answer her questions, but the answers didn’t come easily.  “Do you mean what are my weaknesses that I need to improve?  You know, I have always had a hard time at listening to people and I know I sometimes cut them off before they are done speaking.  I guess that is one thing I could get better at.”  He paused, and his eyes looked up at the ceiling, then he quickly added: “And occasionally I don’t share with my team everything that I am thinking about, which can create some problems between us, you know it seems like they start going another direction and I have to reel them in.  And that makes them think I don’t support their ideas.  I guess they might say, I shut down their creative thinking too quickly.” 

“Another thing is that I don’t always make it clear how we are going to decide, so there can be confusion about who is responsible to make a decision and/or who has the authority to make it.  That one bugs me a lot because I don’t want anyone to make a bad decision and screw things up.  Do you know what I mean?”  The consultant nodded.  The CEO kept talking (on a role now); “And one more thing; I guess people are not always clear about where we are going and want me to tell them.  I’m not comfortable with telling them exactly what the future is going to look like, I mean, who can predict what is going to happen in 5 years?”

The consultant smiled at the CEO trying to positively acknowledge his insights.  “Thanks for sharing with me what you think your personal leadership challenges are.  Would you mind if I ask you one more question:  How do you know that working on all that would make a difference?” The CEO answered; “I guess, I don’t know for sure, but my gut tells me it would help a lot if I did these things better.  Do you disagree?”  The consultant quickly said; “No, I don’t disagree, but my concern is that if you were going to put the effort into becoming a better leader, you should probably know what is going to be the most important thing to work on and not waste your time working on something that doesn’t matter.  Do you agree?”  The CEO nodded in agreement.

Feeling like the CEO was pondering what being an outstanding leader might be like, the consultant asked one more question; “if you became the best leader you could be, what difference would that make to your business?”

The CEO starred out the window and started to imagine himself how his team and the rest of the company would respond.  I don’t know for sure, but I know it would be positive and people would like it a lot. 

So now it’s your turn.  Answer the questions:

  1. “Are you a good leader?”
  2. “Could you be better?”
  3. “What would you do to be a better leader?” 
  4. “How do you know that working that would make a difference?”
  5. “If you became the best leader you could be, what difference would that make to your business?”

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