Evaluating Leadership at the CEO Level

I came across an intriguing piece of research the other day. It confirms something I’ve long suspected, but could not verify. The title of the summary of this report says it well:

“When it comes to business leadership, nice guys finish first.”

This is a report of research conducted by GreenPeak Partners in collaboration with Cornell University. The report itself is entitled: “What Predicts Executive Success?”
If you’ve been following my ideas, you know that I write a lot about leadership development for frontline leadership; leadership at the supervisory or team level. Leadership there requires a high degree of attention to the “people” part of leadership. It requires attention to relationships, to collaboration, to partnering…to employee engagement. This is what is important in executive leadership training.

What this report by GreenPeak demonstrates is that people skills are also important at the CEO level. The myth that it takes a hard-driving, “take no prisoners” style of entrepreneurial leader to drive employee productivity and the highest financial results is just that—a myth. The report debunks this long-standing myth.

Just like team leads, CEOs do best when they collaborate, when they trust those on their team, when they develop a high level of skill at personal relationships.
This report points me back to what should have been obvious to me, but I had lost sight of it. Leadership is primarily about people. And it doesn’t matter how many people one leads, nor where in the hierarchy they fill a role. Good leadership, in practice, looks the same whether you are a CEO or a team leader.

If, in my previous writings, I have seemed to focus too much on the role of leadership at the frontline, it is only because that’s where it often gets overlooked. I want to correct the oversight. I want to overcome the neglect. At the senior level, while leadership has not been overlooked, its essence has been mistaken. I hope this report helps to put to rest some worn-out myths about CEO leadership. I was delighted to see my own hunches validated by it.

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