The CEO’s Personal Growth Can Limit the Organisation and Consultants Can’t Fix It.

CEOAn organisation, a family, a nation is only as good as the quality of its leadership. In an organisation, no one has a greater level of influence than the CEO. If leadership is influence as John Maxwell eagerly proposes, it is good for business leaders to consider the kind of influence they have on their organisation. The influence of a CEO can never be overrated. Everything rises and falls on his leadership. For this reason, we need to shift our attention momentarily from staff development and competencies. We need to get the CEO to pay attention to personal growth.

CEOs are saddled with huge responsibilities – running the business, managing people, deploying strategy, casting vision and all the essentials that come with the role. Indeed, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The demands of business, however cannot discount the need for the CEO to find time for personal growth – self renewal, reinvention, you can call it.

In the words of Stephen Covey, the CEO must find time to sharpen his saw. Taking a cue from Covey’s bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The CEO must sharpen himself in four critical areas – Spiritual, Mental, Social/Emotional and Physical.

Spiritual Renewal – Understand your Philosophy of Success and What Drives Your Business and Personal Life

After long years of running Standard Oil and creating an oil monopoly, John D. Rockefeller, then the richest man in the world was told at the age 52, he had only six months to live. This reality forced him to reexamine what he was living for, what truly was important in his business and his life. The product of this was a decision to sell half of his interest in the Rockefeller oil companies for cash, an amount of about $500 million dollars in order to set up the first Rockefeller foundation to give away money to worthy causes he admired. The result was that his health improved as he became more involved in philanthropy and the half ownership he retained increased in value at a rate faster than he could give away. He eventually died at the age of 86. Standard Oil, after the breaking of its monopoly by the US government is what gave birth to what is now known today as Chevron, Exxon Mobil and others.

The lesson – understand that Rockefeller was not a ruthless capitalist. His motive of monopoly was not to amass wealth as much as ensuring his customers got fuel at the cheapest prices possible. He did this by building complex and sophisticated systems of distribution and delivery. His obsessive drive meant that any competitor who charged more than Rockefeller was taken out of the market.

The ethics of his decision is not the focus here but the fact that his business was completely customer centered. As an aside, religion was a guiding force throughout his life and Rockefeller believed it to be the source of his success.

The question every CEO must now answer is this – what drives your business? Is it the motive to provide better service to customers, to improve the economy, create more jobs or it is simply just to increase the company’s profit with the end justifying the means? Its time we rethink and realign with nobler goals and ambitions. Capitalism has a soul and CEOs should prove it through their mission, vision and how they conduct their business.


Mental Renewal – Build Your Business Intelligence, Focus and Skills

The CEO must keep in trend with current management thinking. In an age where information and the ability to use it to generate results faster than the competition is what gives competitive advantage, the CEO must remain very nimble.

The CEO that strongly desires business success will keeps in touch with the business classics as well as the trendy year by year best sellers. Brian Sher in the book, What Rich People Know and Desperately Want To Keep Secret wrote,

“Go into the home of any self made person and chances are you will find a library containing books on business, success and wealth creation. The question you need to ask yourself is: which came first? The library or the luxurious house? I will bet it wasn’t the house.”

A good-to-great CEO doesn’t claim to be an island of knowledge and so he will pay for trainings to upgrade his skills. A smart CEO will even hire a life or business coach. Harvey Mackay, the famous motivational speaker, bestselling author and businessman is famed to have coaches for different areas of his life. Real business giants are always learning. Whenever a CEO thinks he knows it all, he should remember Henry Ford’s words,

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

CEOs should develop commercial awareness and business intelligence by attending industry events, participating actively in industry associations and subscribing for newspapers and magazines like BusinessDay, Harvard Business Review, The Economist, Inc, Fast Company etc. The CEO should have a daily reading plan and if he think it is not possible, let Confucius encourage him,

“You cannot open a book without learning something.”

Maybe the CEO’s next winning business idea or breakthrough strategy is lying in a book store, magazine rack somewhere or probably on his bookshelf gathering dust. It’s high time, CEOs prioritized their own education.


Social/Emotional Renewal – Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence and Nurture Your Key Relationships 

In his widely popular Harvard Business Review article, What Makes A Leader, Daniel Goleman shares, “Asked to define the ideal leader, many would emphasize traits such as intelligence, toughness, determination and vision. Often left off the list are softer, more personal qualities….Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skills is a minimum requirement for success, what is called ‘emotional intelligence’ may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate.”

According to Goleman, it is required for the CEO to develop in 5 areas of emotional intelligence:

a)     Self-Awareness – ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.

b)     Self-Regulation – the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. The propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting.

c)     Motivation – a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

d)     Empathy – the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people or skills in treating people according to their emotional reactions.

e)     Social Skill – proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to find common ground and build rapport.

These areas are critical for any CEO who is ambitious to succeed at an unprecedented level. Technical skills of business alone won’t cut it.

In addition, the CEO must pay attention to his most important relationships. No one wishes on their death beds that they spent more time at the office. 80% of life success is found in relationships. David Rockefeller said

“I am convinced that material things can contribute a lot to making one’s life pleasant, but, basically, if you do not have very good friends and relatives who matter to you, life will be really empty and sad and material things cease to be important”

Samuel Johnson advised,

“If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.”

It is therefore important for a CEO not to sacrifice his relationships or social life on the altar of growing the business. It does happen but it’s a problem when it’s a permanent feature of a CEO’s life.


Physical Renewal – Take Care of Your Health

The CEO must prioritize his health. He can only run the business because he has a body and mind that cooperates with his zeal to build a great business. Your body is your production capacity. It’s not urgent to take care of it but like an over worn engine without regular servicing, it can break down without advanced warning.

John Maxwell learnt this lesson the hard way after going down with a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 51. Ever since, he learnt the importance of taking care of his health in spite of his busy schedule. He wrote in an article, “I have learnt the importance of this…the hard way – through the trauma of a heart attack. If you‘re not carving out time to rest and replenish, to exercise and to monitor your spiritual wellbeing, then you will eventually break down. When that happens, you are no good to anyone.” His philosophy now is Being well is doing well.

The CEO is the goose that lays the golden egg, responsible to produce the desired business results or execute strategy. As a business owner, the CEO’s production capability needs to be renewed. In this case, he needs to maintain his health, eat the right diet, take time for regular medical checkup and exercise his body regularly.

The idea of indefatigable CEO is a myth. A fatigued CEO is irritable, lacks fresh ideas and makes poor business decisions. That is the kind of CEO staff tiptoe around. We should be careful of sacrificing our health in pursuit of money only to later use the money to pursue our health. A CEO in a hospital bed is not always thinking of the bottom line but how to get his life and vitality back.

What area of your life as a business owner demands immediate or urgent attention among the four described above?

Tell us your answer and how you intend to start working on it today!

To your success,

Olayiwola Adeyemi

Olayiwola AdeyemiOlayiwola Adeyemi worked as a Management Consultant with W-Holistic Business Solutions where he helped entrepreneurs with strategy formulation for the development of their human capital and for achieving business growth. In this capacity, he has worked with clients in several industries ranging from technical services, transportation, telecoms, real estate, construction, hospitality, amongst others.