There have been books and books written on what makes a successful CEO. Many such tomes in the West have, however, gone down the tube when the CEOs concerned turned out to have feet of clay. Even the redoubtable Jack Welch was criticised after his retirement from GE for all the free wine, flowers, groceries, sports tickets and newspapers he got from his company.
The other problem with these books is that they are into a numbers game. If Author A has six successful traits, Author B must come up with 16. If you want one example, take a look at D.A. Benton. She has written Executive Charisma:Six Steps to Mastering the Art of Leadership, How to Act Like a CEO:10 Rules for Getting to the Top and Staying There, and How to Think Like a CEO:The 22 Vital Traits You Need to Be the Person at the Top.
Others make life a little less complicated. According to Tom Northup of the Leadership Management Group, there are three characteristics of successful people. These are:
nGoal direction: They know where they stand, where they want to go and have a plan to get there.
nSelf-motivation: As self-starters, they wind their own clock.
nPositive mental attitude: Successful people look for ways to complete tasks. They focus on strengths and break self-imposed limitations created by low self-esteem.
“The difference between being average and successful is small,” says Northup. “A successful person doesn’t work harder, he or she works with a distinct goal in mind.”
The tide has turned on the mergers and acquisitions front. For the first time ever, more money is being spent by Indian companies taking over foreign corporates than by MNCs taking over Indian companies. This trend will continue. “What this means is that more Indians will become CEOs of foreign companies,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. “Besides, there is increasing recognition of Indian talent. Foreign companies are looking at Indians to head their operations here and abroad.”
In the West, books on management thinking are part of the B-school gospel. They haven’t yet made sufficient inroads in India. “There is healthy scepticism,” says Singh. He’s been collecting studies that make for very interesting reading. Take a look at some of them:
nThe London Guildhall University says tall men earn 10 per cent more than short men. Plain women earn 11 per cent less while unattractive men earn 15 per cent less. Fat women earn 5 per cent less. But fat men are on a par with their slimmer brethren.
nA study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis shows that beautiful people earn 5 per cent more than their plainer counterparts.
nResearch by economist Christopher S. Ruebeck of Lafayette College shows that left-handed men earn 21 per cent more than similarly-educated right-handed men.
nA study by economists Bethany Peters and Edward Stringham has found that men who drink earn 10 per cent more than abstainers and women drinkers earn 14 per cent more than non-drinkers.
nFinally, a study by Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon of the University of Surrey says that successful business managers are as likely to show the traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder — the sort of thing that could make you a megalomaniac or run amok — as criminals and psychiatric cases.
Says Singh: “If you want to be a successful CEO, you have to be tall, beautiful and left-handed. It will help if you are a sot and a psycho.”
THE ‘A’ LIST
Traits of a successful CEO
Leadership skills: The ability to set and champion the culture.
Good strategic and business planning skills.
Goal-setting, decision-making and performance-tracking ability.
Ongoing strategic monitoring.
The ability to attract the right talent for first and second layers of management.
Execution: That’s what matters in the end.
Source: Tina Kerkam, Convergence Group