Are You a Hero Leader?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Are you a “hero leader?” Do you like to swoop-in and save the day? Do you see yourself as the white knight who can solve any problem or challenge? If you do, you have what I refer to as “hero leader syndrome.” Any leader’s belief that he or she can do everything better than anyone else (even if it’s true) is a root cause of inhibiting workforce productivity. Creating unnecessary dependencies between leaders and team members, while often unintentional and/or well-intended, is nonetheless a far too common practice for the “hero leader.” In today’s post we’ll take a look at the myth of the hero leader…

Is your workforce comprised of independent, highly motivated, and effective individuals, or is it built upon the limitations of employees completely dependent on you as their leader? Here’s a news flash…great leaders don’t create a state of dependency. In fact, they won’t allow dependencies to exist…rather they mandate independent thinking and decisioning. Many leaders struggle with understanding that rescuing is not the same thing as leading. Sound leadership actually prevents the need to rescue.

If you’re overworked, tired, and feeling stretched so far that your rubber-band is about to snap, it is likely because your doing the work of your subordinates, rather than holding them accountable to perform their own duties. Your role as a leader is to develop talent to the highest levels of independent and autonomous thinking and execution. Great leaders don’t subscribe to a “Do-It-For-You” methodology of talent management, rather they lead, mentor, coach, and develop team members by getting them to buy-into a “Do-It-Yourself” work ethic.

Great leaders view each interaction, question, or even conflict as a coaching opportunity. Don’t answer questions or solve problems just because you can, rather teach your employees how to do it for themselves. If you make it a habit of solving problems for people, you simply teach them to come to you for solutions at the first sign of a challenge. Great leaders don’t allow themselves to be placed in this position. They don’t allow employees to leverage them, they leverage the employee, and in doing so, it’s a win for the executive, the employee and the enterprise as a whole.

The trick is to meet questions, challenges, conflicts etc., with intelligent questions of your own. You need to meet question with questions. Questions allow you to direct the conversation and not be sucked into it. By redirecting the flow of a conversation, you elicit critical information and show that you care about what the other person is thinking. The following 5 tips will allow you to ask effective questions:

  1. Be sincere in your questioning. Forget about what’s in it for you, and think about how you can help the person you’re communicating with. Do not manipulate or control the other person, but make an honest effort to find out how you can help them achieve their objectives by coaching them and not just serving up a solution on a silver platter.
  2. Learn to ask effective questions. Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Use questions that begin with who, what, where, when, why or how in an attempt to enable dialoging. If the other person is doing all the sharing of information, you will find yourself in the enviable position of being able to assess, evaluate, and synthesize the information being shared. While the other party is talking…you are learning. Once you understand what the issues are you’re now in a better position to coach and teach.
  3. Use questions to stimulate and challenge. Ask questions that are insightful such that they require thought to be answered. Help people understand how bright they are and where their talents and gifts are by setting a high chinning bar. When you engage people with stimulating and probing conversation they learn and grow.
  4. Get personal in your questioning. Use questions that encourage the other person to reveal their thoughts and emotions. These questions will help you truly get to know the other party and to build common ground and rapport. If you can move beyond the analytical to the personal, the other party is much more likely to reveal their bias or agenda.
  5. Demonstrate your competency without giving the answer away. Ask questions that reveal your subject matter expertise, and that demonstrate your ability to provide meaningful solutions without actually doing so. These types of questions should engender credibility, and therefore provide the other party with confidence that you can handle the situation in a manner that is in alignment with their best interests. Force people to move beyond surface level discussions by taking them past their comfort zones with intelligent questioning. Never settle for the general, ambiguous, vague, or standard answer. Continue probing until you are satisfied with the answer.

If you want to become a great leader, master the art of teaching and coaching through the application of skillful questioning. Work on developing a list of well thought out questions that are situational, industry specific, product specific, market specific, positionally specific, etc., and use them to put you in a position to help others, not by feeding them, but by teaching them how to fish…


Leadership and Knowledge Management

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

It’s one thing to possess knowledge, but it’s quite another thing to leverage it. Leaders who don’t understand the value of distributable and actionable knowledge not only limit opportunities, but they’re also building huge contingent operating liabilities. One of great challenges for any leader is to break down cultural tendencies that foster silo-centric thought patterns. Savvy leaders understand that controlling knowledge diminishes value, while releasing knowledge creates value.  In the text that follows I’ll share 3 tips that will help leaders become successful in the efficient and effective distribution of  knowledge across the enterprise.   

We have all heard the saying that “knowledge is power” we’ve all also heard the refinement of that saying which states that “the application of knowledge is power”. I prefer to take it one step further and say that “the successful application of knowledge at the right time, for the right reasons, and with the proper emphasis results in a certainty of execution that creates influence and adds value.” Leaders who understand the catalytic power of properly applied knowledge will not only be able to leverage knowledge to increase returns, but also be able to protect knowledge to mitigate risk.

Let’s begin by defining knowledge management (KM)…While this alone may spur fierce debate, for simplicity sake I’ll define knowledge management as: “an organization’s ability to collect and convert data into information, turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into an operating advantage.” The operational advantage created through effective KM should allow an enterprise to effectively address current needs as well as to strategically drive innovation and forward planning.
Put more simply, a corporation’s employees must be able to acquire knowledge (learning), transfer knowledge (out of the head and into an information system), apply knowledge (from the information system into an actionable event), manage knowledge (execute with focus, timing and precision), and secure knowledge (keep it from evaporating or even worse from walking out the door to a competitor). Let’s see if we can bring this issue a bit closer to home for some of you…Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever had a disruption in business continuity because someone who possessed a wealth of experience and/or information retired, quit or was terminated?
  • Have you ever lost a deal or had a major operational problem because somewhere in your organization the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing?
  • Have you ever found yourself in the unenviable position of desiring to terminate an employee only to be held hostage by the fear of losing the knowledge that they possess?

While I could go on ad-nauseum with day-to-day operating examples of how a lack of KM discipline can adversely affect a business, I think I’ve probably dredged-up enough painful memories for now. So, let’s turn our attention to the following 3 practices/concepts that can immediately be used to implement a KM system for your business:

  1. KM is more about people than systems: In order for KM to flourish in a corporate environment the business must value data, information, business intelligence, research and other forms of knowledge as a strategic corporate asset. Furthermore, KM must be recognized as one of the core elements of your corporate culture. Encourage and reward collaboration, the public sharing of knowledge, and education processes to create and scale knowledge. 
  2. While KM is more about people and culture than systems, you still need a system: Start with some basic wire-framing that creates an ontology with taxonomies that develop standard business rules, logic, process, naming conventions, file protocols, nomenclature and other heterogeneous standards that put everyone on the same system. By requiring everyone to work on the same platform and environment, and within the same toolsets a certain sense of continuity and community is developed. Develop a mantra of “document, document and when in doubt, document” and make this as painless as possible. There is an old technology axiom that states “usability drives adoptability”. Whatever toolset you select must be easy to use so that it is viewed by employees as something that makes their job easier, not more difficult. That said, there is a plethora of add water and mix content management systems, workflow collaboration tools, and KM solutions that are affordable and easy to use.
  3. Protect your corporate knowledge:  All employees should sign work for hire, non-disclosure, non-compete and non-circumvention agreements that make sure that all knowledge developed will remain corporate knowledge. Furthermore make it a practice to utilize copyrights, service marks, trademarks, license agreements, patents and other intellectual property protections to protect the corporate investment into knowledge assets.

The bottom line is that you can harness disparate elements of data and information and convert them into corporate knowledge assets to create a sustainable competitive advantage, or you can choose to sit back and conduct business as usual The choice is yours. Thoughts?

Generational Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

A leader’s biggest struggle is not the routine of the familiar, but the journey of the unknown. It’s getting from where they are to where they want to be strategically, tactically, organizationally, developmentally, and most importantly relationally.  It’s been said that the best way to impact your future is to change your present circumstances.  And quite frankly, I can’t think of a better place to ignite that change than by helping you to gain a better understanding of how to connect with what IS the future – the younger generation – the next generation of leaders. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on how to reap the benefits of cross generational leadership.

Let me be as clear as I can – there are still far too many leaders who believe in having someone earn their stripes and pay their dues – please don’t do this, don’t be this person. It’s not productive – IT DOESNT WORK.  Don’t focus on restricting someone’s development, Focus on unlocking their passion and their potential. Don’t seek to be affirmed by the tenured– seek to be challenged by those who offer something new. Don’t cater to the past, focus on the future. I’m going to encourage you to draw a line in the sand and ask you to absolutely refuse to allow your organization to reek of the stale scent of status quo. 

I’m going to ask you to stop complaining about the younger generation, and instead become very intentional and very fluent in your understanding of them. By all means, mentor and develop them, but it’s time to make a paradigm shift in traditional thinking and for leaders to check their egos. Learning is not solely a top-down initiative, and what I want you to understand is that the next generation has just as much to offer you, and just as much to teach you. 

Here’s the thing – cross generational corporate experiments aren’t working too well. Put another way, most leaders haven’t figured out how to deal with the challenges of integrating different generations and their respective belief systems. We’re all experiencing the same collision of generations within the workforce, and while some are reaping the benefits of turning friction into opportunity, most are not. This is because many leaders have generations competing with one another rather than learning from each other.

Let’s take a closer look at these generations – Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) represent a huge segment of our population, and the Millennials or Gen Y (those born after 1981) represent and even larger segment with their numbers now eclipsing those of the boomers. The problem is this: for the boomers 75 is the new 65. Boomers are healthier, living longer, identify themselves with careers, and they either don’t want to, or can’t afford to retire into this down economy.  So, at the same time Boomers aren’t leaving the work force, the huge wave of Millennials are entering the workforce. This means that if you don’t already have 50 and 60 year olds working side-by-side a 20 something – you will in the future.

As a leader you must learn to build bridges leading from old habits and comfort zones to the more fertile grounds of disruptive innovation. The best way to accomplish that is to align the creative energy of the younger generation, and the experience of your more seasoned workers with your organizational values and vision. What I want to communicate is that you can run, but you cannot hide – sooner or later, knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly, willingly or unwillingly, EVERY leader must deal with the changing demographic shifts in the workforce. It impacts culture, performance, brand, innovation, leadership development, succession and even the sustainability of your enterprise. As a leader you must get this right or fail.  

Most of you understand what I’m sharing at a theoretical level – you’ve all seen the numbers and you’ve all studied the trends. That said, very few of you, if your honest embrace these trends, and most of all, you likely don’t leverage them at a at a day-to-day practical level, much less at a strategic level. Let me give you an example of something that I observe regularly – the sad reality is that when I assess a new client’s leadership team, it’s the exception, not the rule, that youth has a seat at the table. And the real kicker is it’s not because they don’t have young talent, they simply don’t know how to engage their younger talent. They don’t speak the same language, and they’re frustrated. This often results in a disengaged, out of touch, have always done it that way leadership team. And when it comes time for succession these organizations end-up going outside the company to replace the old – old person, with a new old person. Not only are most companies building in leadership obsolescence, but they have no real idea of how to correct the problem, and they’re certainly not leveraging the completely underutilized Gen X’rs and Gen Y’rs falling through the cracks of their company.

Bottom line: if you don’t have youth represented in your senior management and leadership teams – get some. Once they have a seat at the table you also need to give them a voice. Now comes the really hard part…you have to then be willing to listen. You won’t ever engage Gen Y, you won’t unlock their creativity, passion, intelligence and commitment if you don’t respect them. Dismiss them, patronize them, or otherwise marginalize them and they’ll walk out the door. Show them you care about them, that you care about the right things – you know the small things like values, ethics, transparency and they’ll be the fuel the runs your engine into the future. Failing to embrace this is the same thing as choosing to restrict your access to opportunity.


Leadership & Mental Models

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

When was the last time you conducted an honest evaluation of your thought life? Does the integrity and quality of your thinking position you for success, or does your tendency toward intellectually dishonest rationalizations and justifications doom you to a life of chaos and failure? Few things in life are as important as your thought life, so in today’s post I’ll examine the two things most likely to impact your thinking: 1.) what you think about, and; 2.) how you think about it. In the text that follows I’ll discuss mental models and critical thinking.

Its been said, and rightly so, that “we become what we think about.” My challenge to you is to make sure that you are in fact thinking, that you’re thinking about the right things, and that you’re thinking critically using solid mental models. But before we get into the meat of this post, I want to encourage you to be brutally honest about your historical performance. It is critical that you don’t carry mistakes forward, that you don’t extend failed initiatives which should have died long ago, and that you don’t allow your pride and ego to impede right thinking and right decisioning. Knowingly turning a blind eye toward rational thinking and reality is a fools gambit that will cost you dearly. I urge you not to participate in the folly of self-delusion. I encourage you to be sincere in your analysis and make the most of your opportunities moving forward. 

Critical thinking skills are not a luxury for senior executives – they’re a survival skill. In today’s hi-tech business world we have become reliant on any number of available business tools to help us achieve better results and to perform at higher levels. We attend classes, workshops, webcasts, conferences etc., and we read books on how to master everything from the newest software application to the latest management theory. We seem to have an insatiable thirst for anything that will provide us with a perceived competitive advantage, yet we often ignore the one tool which can provide an unequaled return on investment if developed to even a fraction of its potential…the human mind.  

Most professionals intellectually understand that learning is a life-long endeavor, but the reality is that many executives and entrepreneurs invest very little in the development of the human mind once they have finished their formal education. Given that the human mind is without question the greatest and most powerful tool we possess, and that we all have free and equal access to it, I find it odd that it is also the most underdeveloped tool for many professionals. It has been my experience that business people tend to overestimate their intellectual ability, and as a result, they often fail to make investments in endeavors of intellectual development.

Developing sound critical thinking skills are a requirement for CEOs and entrepreneurs. Being both quick of mind, and intelligent in approach with your mental analyses of a given situation simply results in fewer mistakes in judgment. The external perception with regard to a person who possesses excellent critical thinking skills is often that they have great wisdom and discernment. Critical thinking skills while related to intelligence, are not one in the same. A great critical thinker may or may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but they will have a disciplined, fluid approach in thinking things through that often gives them the appearance of being a genius. Strong mental acuity is a competitive advantage not to be taken lightly.

Paul, Binker, Jensen, and Kreklau (1990) developed a list of 35 dimensions of critical thought. While the following list can get a bit academic, if implemented consistently, these tactics will help you better navigate the complexities of the business world:

Affective Strategies

  1. thinking independently
  2. developing insight into egocentricity or sociocentricity
  3. exercising fair-mindedness
  4. exploring thoughts underlying feelings and feelings underlying thoughts
  5. developing intellectual humility and suspending judgment
  6. developing intellectual courage
  7. developing intellectual good faith or integrity
  8. developing intellectual perseverance 
  9. developing confidence in reason

Cognitive Strategies–Macro-Abilities

 10.  refining generalizations and avoiding oversimplifications
 11.  comparing analogous situations: transferring insights to new contexts
 12.  developing one’s perspective: creating or exploring beliefs, arguments, or theories
 13.  clarifying issues, conclusions, or beliefs
 14.  clarifying and analyzing the meanings of words or phrases
 15.  developing criteria for evaluation: clarifying values and standards
 16.  evaluating the credibility of sources of information
 17.  questioning deeply: raising and pursuing root or significant questions
 18.  analyzing or evaluating arguments, interpretations, beliefs, or theories
 19.  generating or assessing solutions
 20.  analyzing or evaluating actions or policies
 21.  reading critically: clarifying or critiquing texts
 22.  listening critically: the art of silent dialogue
 23.  making interdisciplinary connections
 24.  practicing Socratic discussion: clarifying and questioning beliefs, theories, or perspectives
 25.  reasoning dialogically: comparing perspectives, interpretations, or theories
 26.  reasoning dialectically: evaluating perspectives, interpretations, or theories

Cognitive Strategies–Micro-Skills

 27.  comparing and contrasting ideals with actual practice
 28.  thinking precisely about thinking: using critical vocabulary
 29.  noting significant similarities and differences
 30.  examining or evaluating assumptions
 31.  distinguishing relevant from irrelevant facts
 32.  making plausible inferences, predictions, or interpretations
 33.  evaluating evidence and alleged facts
 34.  recognizing contradictions
 35.  exploring implications and consequences”

If you want to do everything possible to ensure your success as a C-level executive or entrepreneur, don’t rest upon your laurels, but rather continue to make investments in your personal and professional development. Since we’re on the topic of thinking, any thoughts?

Smart Leaders Do More Than Talk About Talent

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Those of you familiar with my work know how much I detest politically correct sound-bites. Even worse – when those sound-bites are used in an attempt to make statements which embolden a corporate position that doesn’t really exist to begin with. Just because something is written in a vision or mission statement, placed on a website, included in company collateral material, or frequently espoused by corporate leadership doesn’t necessarily mean its true. In today’s post I’ll examine one of the most frequent offenders; “Talent is our biggest asset.”

Rarely do I speak with an executive who hasn’t taken more than a few sips of the talent messaging Kool-Aid. They don’t miss a beat as they speak of the quality of their talent as a key success metric. In fact, many of them will emphatically state that talent is their single biggest competitive advantage. If I only had a nickel for each time a CEO has told me “We have the best talent in the industry.” Reality check – as polished as their rhetoric tends to be, the simple truth of the matter is that their elocution doesn’t match their business practices. They often talk the talk, but rarely do they walk the walk.

The sad reality is few companies seem willing to make the requisite investments needed to successfully align their actions with their management speak. It has been my consistent experience that talent is one of the most often discussed, and least effectively actioned issues at executive leadership meetings. If CEOs spent half as much time on talent initiatives as they do complaining about talent, their organizations would see significant improvement thus obviating the need for all the grumbling.

Here’s an observation for your consideration; when an executive leadership meeting is called and there isn’t a dedicated executive level talent resource present, you don’t value talent as much a you think you do. I’m not talking about inviting your HR manager to attend the meeting for a few minutes, but rather having a C-level talent executive with a regular seat at the table. If your company doesn’t have a Chief Talent Officer, Chief People Officer etc.,  then you are likely just paying lip service to the value of talent.

If you just downsized and gave your previously “highly valued assets” their walking papers, then you might not value talent as much as you say you do. One of my mentors once cautioned me about treating people like furniture saying that “individuals are not inantimate objects to simply be moved around and discarded, but that people require a constant investment of time and money to develop to their full potential.” He strongly cautioned against short-term hires, and believed that you shouldn’t hire anyone whom you couldn’t keep and develop over the long haul.  I would encourage you to read a previous post on “Workforce Reduction.”

If recruiting, training and development is being charged to a mid-level manager whose real domain expertise lies in administration and compliance, then talent will likely become your largest contingent liability as opposed to your biggest asset. In a previous post entitled “Who Should Do The Hiring” I go into great detail as to why recruiting and hiring should not always be siloed away as an HR function.

Bottom line…if you have high employee turnover (see “Cutting Employee Churn“), a fractured corporate culture, a lack of leadership development and mentoring programs, regressive compensation programs, and a lack of C-level focus on talent then talent cannot be your biggest asset. Don’t hype…stop complaining…fix the problem.


Lessons from Ronald Reagan

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

While scrutiny of any two-term president will reveal mistakes and flaws, the simple fact is that there are great lessons to be learned from Ronald Reagan. Few would argue that Presdient Reagan was a true statesman, and most would also concur he was one of the greatest U.S. Presidents of the modern era. He overcame critics who thought him to be little more than an actor who was in over his head to bring down the Berlin Wall and end the Cold War, to create one of the most robust economies in recent history, and he even survived a point-blank assassination attempt. Virtually every politician, republicans and democrats alike, have fondly referred to him on many occasions. Our 40th President served during a challenging time in history, but he overcame even the harshest of critics and adversaries in proving himself as a determined and capable leader.

President Reagan is often referred to as the great communicator. His timing, clarity, eloquence, and self-deprecating humor were known to all who observed him speak. However it was the fact that he meant what he said that made him a force to be reckoned with. He understood the difference between rhetoric and diplomacy, and he most certainly understood the difference between pontificating and advancing a cause or protecting our interests. He knew that a steadfast commitment to principles of freedom and democracy, along with a focus on a strong economy and a strong defense made for a strong country. He was a faithful steward of the people’s trust and served our nation well.

I’m not going to provide a commentary on the differences between Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan other than to wonder why our current president doesn’t spend as much time learning from Ronald Reagan as he does comparing himself to him. In the text that follows I’ll do no editorializing whatsoever, as I believe President Reagan’s words speak volumes on their own accord…The following quotes from President Reagan are just a few of my favorites, and given today’s environment, they provide more than sufficient food for thought:

“Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

“The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: It it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

“Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.”

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

“One way to make sure that crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.”

“Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.”

“The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away.”

“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

“Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

“Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.”

“Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.”

“Man is not free unless government is limited.”

As always, I welcome your comments below…

Should CEOs Have Term Limits?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership Term LimitsI have read some interesting articles and blog posts of late on the subject of CEO term limits, and felt this topic worthy of discussion. You should know from the outset that I fundamentally disagree with the concept of CEO term limits, and quite frankly I cannot really come up with a valid reason for supporting such a regressive concept. Any such argument in my opinion is rooted either in flawed business logic or politically correct rhetoric (usually one in the same). I would encourage you to read my arguments in opposition to CEO term limits, as well as to think through the ramifications on the corporate landscape if such thinking were to ever take hold…

Okay sure, the topic of CEO term limits makes for a nice sound bite given some of the C-suite debacles that have laundered the front pages of the media in recent times. However it is my opinion that rogue CEOs are the exception and not the rule. Why would we want to institute yet another bureaucratically mandated, one size fits all solution that addresses the symptom and not the problem? My basic feeling on the topic of CEO Term Limits can be summed-up with this quote:

There exists a season for all things, but decisive, prudent & principled leadership never goes out of season.” ~Mike Myatt, 2003

With the average CEO tenure hovering at an all time low, who needs CEO Term Limits anyway? Why would you ever want the person in charge of corporate leadership, vision and strategy to be a lame duck right from the get go? Furthermore, last time I checked a CEO can always be removed for lack of performance, or moral and ethical indiscretions, so what purpose do CEO term limits serve other than to disincentivize the CEO?

The basic flaw in most arguments in support of CEO term limits stems from a belief that tenure is somehow a very relevant metric, and that there is some mystical optimum time to serve. WRONG…The simple truth of the matter is that the time needed to attain performance goals varies depending among other things the age, size and competitive positioning of the company, the industry, sector and vertical, etc. Stating that a CEO of a start-up should operate with the same term limit constraints of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is very unrealistic and dangerous thinking.  

Great CEOs possess the ability to refine their thinking and leadership skills to reflect the evolving needs of the enterprise and the changing global business climate. CEOs that cannot operate fluidly and contextually won’t be effective whether they hold the job for 12 minutes or 12 years. Chronological tenure is not the issue…business savvy, leadership ability, and the ability to provide a certainty of execution should constitute the metrics surrounding CEO performance evaluation.

An additional argument in support for CEO term limits is based upon the premise that the price of CEO terms that last too long goes deeper than the obvious performance metrics…that there is somehow the missed opportunity of a different vision, never heard and never realized. This line of thinking assumes that a CEO is operating statically within a vacuum. Great CEOs are the glue that provides continuity between vision and strategy. Great CEOs provide inspiration and leadership, as well as offer a steady hand at the wheel. They also seek the advice and counsel of their board and executive team in addition to a plethora of outside advisers. Great CEOs adapt, improvise and overcome…they are not static eunuchs operating inside a bubble.   

The issue has never been, nor should it ever become, how long a chief executive remains in the position based solely or arbitrarily on the issue of tenure. Rather the issue should be based on something as simple as the following question: does the CEO deserve to keep their job based upon performance?  If you want to drive CEO performance, start by hiring the right person for the job. Then follow-up your great hiring decision by providing the CEO with the tools and resources necessary to get the job done. Compensate the CEO for performance, and hold him or her accountable for a lack thereof…its just that simple.  

If you have the wrong CEO replace him or her…If your board of directors is asleep at the wheel and does not hold the CEO accountable shame on them, but CEO term limits…why? The simple truth of the matter is that corporate impatience driven by the short-term mentality of Wall St. is most often times incongruous with the long-term best interests of shareholders. My recommendation is not to hand-cuff or bridle your CEO, rather give the CEO room to lead, maneuver, innovate and succeed. But hey, what do I know?

I’d love your thoughts on this subject – Do you think leadership has a shelf-life? If so why? If not why not? Sound off in the comments below…