C.E.O Wisdom

In the New York Times Article Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s Adam Bryant discusses his book The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed.

Through interviews of 70 CEOs he defined 5 essential qualities that these leaders shared, traits that set them apart. These are not traits defined by DNA hence unobtainable. They are within anyone’s reach.  Small business owners and creatives can learn a lot by embracing these 5 qualities.

1. Passionate curiosity

It’s a projection of confidence, a sense of authority, openness to new experiences. It’s an insatiable interest in knowing people’s stories. As self proclaimed “students of human nature” they are relentlessly asking the big picture questions. Why things work the way they do and how can they be improved?  It’s knowing how to ask the right questions while maintaining the humility in knowing you don’t have all the answers.


2. Battle-hardened confidence.

Game On!  It’s strength of character, the ability to embrace adversity and overcome it. What obstacles have you navigated? Do you make excuses or own the challenge? Without perseverance success is unobtainable.

Nancy McKinstry CEO of Wolsters Kluwer looks for people who are “able to sort of fall down, dust themselves off, and keep fighting the next day.” In the end can you believe in yourself when no one else does? There are no guarantees to success and often our greatest lessons come from our failures.


3. Team smarts.

This is social intelligence. Understanding how teams work, recognizing fellow team players and knowing how to bring them towards a common goal and squeeze the best out of them. With Team smarts you may not be fastest or strongest but can anticipate, get things done and be where you are needed when needed.


4.  A simple mind-set.

The Short and Sweet of it! It’s simple, concise and to the point communications. Be focused. Be Practical. But most importantly…Get to the point! Give the bottom line! Can you summarize an idea in 10 words or less?


5.  Fearlessness.

It’s mastery of fear. Informed risk takers adept at seeing opportunities. Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Can you handle things when they do not go smoothly? Can you take a leap of faith into the unknown? You understand the risk, have considered the options and accept the consequences.


Bryant says these traits can be cultivated. So hone these skills. Study others and learn. Then assess your own character. Know your strengths and weaknesses. They will be measured across the span of your life.



Reference Article: Bryant, A. (2011) Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s

Images: (1) Ben Toms (2) Ben Toms (blog)  (3) Tom Ford-joaochavesspot (4) Ben Toms (5) Tilda Swanson shot by Craig McDean-Coutequecoute

2 thoughts on “C.E.O Wisdom

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