How Leaders Think and Operate
Part One:

Inspiration: To influence CEO, leadership and management behavior, we need to know who these people are, how they think and decide things, and where we can have the most useful influence.

Welcome to CEO Coaching Notes, an ongoing series of thoughts, ideas, and practical advice to both help and influence leaders and those around them deal with the opportunities, questions, problems, and situations they are facing and will face in the future. This first section is as titled on how leaders think and operate. It’s important to have a sense of how this happens and to be able to discipline and offer advice quickly when assistance is needed or helpful.

            This first section on my philosophy is crucial to those I advise understanding me and where I come from. This collection of ideas helps set the stage for an ongoing relationship of candor, openness, productive and spontaneous activities, and thinking.

            Everything I talk about is designed to open the minds of those I work with to other possibilities and options for action. Thinking, planning, and using this approach ensures that I’m using their time to their best advantage based on what they need to know, do, think about, and forecast. We begin with the CEO because some people say it’s their bus to drive and our job to help them do a better job. If these observations raise questions, and I hope they do, then simply drop me a line at with a comment and I will respond. Include your phone number and I will call you back.

My Philosophy

  1. All problems are management problems before they are any other kind of problem.
  2. All management problems are leadership challenges. No victims, no crisis.
  3. A crisis is a problem that creates victims. People, animals, living systems.
  4. Leadership resides with those who can maintain more supporters than detractors.
  5. Staff functions exist and are funded by leadership to help leaders do their jobs better.
  6. Managers and leaders want to make the decisions…often based on the advice they receive from Trusted Strategic Advisors.

Precautions for Advisors

  • Remember who’s driving the bus (the boss is.)
  • Staff functions have limitations.
  • Change the changeable; do the doable; know the knowable.
  • Understand the limitations of leadership. Be helpful. Anticipate shortcomings.
  • Develop a sensible behavior change strategy.
  • All leaders and managers think they are good to great communicators.

This Program Will Help You To:

  • Truly know the boss (and your boss)
  • Get heard earlier on serious issues
  • Understand CEO survival patterns
  • Influence important decisions when crisis occurs
  • Know what motivates leaders to act in crisis, and when they misbehave
  • Succeed if your boss is not the CEO
  • Identify the words and actions on the part of management that can significantly worsen a crisis situation and, conversely, the ones that can move the situation toward a more satisfactory resolution.
  • Overcome management objections to crisis readiness.
  • Master the skills required to be a verbal visionary and valued counselor.

My Assumptions

  1. You are the table.
  2. You recognize what you need to do to be trusted.
  3. You are willing to change yourself to get there.
  4. YOYO (You’re On Your Own, because you are)

Leadership Patterns that Influence Readiness

  • Very few management problems are crises.
  • All crises are management and leadership problems. (problems that produce victims are crisis.)
  • Readiness is a management term (crisis management is a PR term) avoid PR terms.
  • Readiness is the goal. Readiness is a primary management responsibility.

CEO Survival Forecast

  • CEOs are leaving faster.
  • Tenures are more intense, as well as shorter.
  • Higher profiles require more strategic guidance and counsel.
  • The first 100 days remain critical to success. Failures among first-time CEO’s are increasing.
  • Prosecution and persecution of top executives will continue.

CEO Communication Trends

  • Non-business issues – globalization, adverse legislation, and anti-corporate activism – are intruding on management. These interruptions seem soft and distractive, often requiring moral rather than monetary or business judgment.
  • Continuing scandals mean CEOs are being measured to some degree on their morality and belief systems.
  • In both the U.S. and in Europe, career-defining risks for CEOs are increasing.
  • The avg. tenure of U.S., Canadian, and European CEOs is decreasing, yet most organizations still plan further into the business cycle than the current CEO is likely to survive.
  • One in four CEOs of major British businesses (sales over £500 million) leaves their job ahead of schedule. This rate continues to increase.
  • CEO average ages are declining.
  • Becoming a CEO is no longer a permanent appointment or final job assignment.

Inside the Mind of the Chief Executive

  • Huge compensation packages allow CEOs to drop out before they are fired or forced out.
  • Even when they are forced out or fired, they get a large compensation package.
  • Compensation has become the measure of success.

The New Top Executive Agenda

  • With the exponential rise of social networking and 24/7 web activism, more individuals than ever are watching, counting, and publicizing whether what bosses do and say matches what they have done and said. Troubles often get announced in advance in these new mediums, platforms well before legacy media.
  • Career-defining risks for CEOs and senior executives are increasing.
  • The typical CEO will spend 40% or more of their time on non-operating issues like:
Adverse legislation
Angry Neighbors
Anti-corporate activism
Compensation controversy
Employee distrust
Globalization / Political Sensitivities
Internal Allegations
Internal confusion about goals
Irritated regulators
Legislative Initiatives
Personal Attacks
Weaponized issues

The CEO’s World

  • All training is on-the-job
  • Limited freedom to act / decide (often a surprise to new CEO’s)
  • Lonely
  • No school
  • No educational track (the job is the education)
  • Often last to know
  • Only one such position in any organization
  • The Mom Factor (often closer to many CEO’s than Dad)

CEO Surprises

  • More of an influencer than a doer
  • Decisions based on learned details, rather than in depth knowledge.
  • Being observed and monitored by so many, so oftern (can seem creepy)
  • The buck, still stops with the CEO
  • The difficulty of figuring out what to do next

CEO Success Secrets

  • Focus
  • Limited objectives
  • Supportive people
  • Communicate constantly
  • Fix fast
  • Change fast
  • Finish projects that can be finished
  • Stopping failing projects before disaster strikes

The Five Main Tasks of the CEO

  1. Soft intrusions
    a. Employee negotiations
    b. Navigating negative news
    c. Corporate embarrassment
  2. Hard obstacles
    a. Massive stock price drop
    b. Major product defect or problem
    c. Employee walkouts/Internal job actions
  3. Nagging problems
    a. Activist attacks
    b. Rumors
    c. Unfounded and founded allegations
  4. Career-defining moments
    a. Major organizational disruptions
    b. Criminal investigations
    c. Unethical behavior
    d. High profile product failures
  5. A vision of the future, the strategies to get there, and moving ahead when the headwinds are blowing.