Being a chief executive is like no other life experience; it’s a thrill no drug or activity can replace and you either love it or don’t want anything to do with it. We are not mysterious creatures. Most of us have souls, and contrary to the general opinion of most people, the majority of us really do want the best for our organizations, the folks that work there, and the shareholders that believe in us. We have feelings beyond greed. Most of us are not overpaid for the responsibility we carry, and we do lose sleep over terminations and downsizing. There is not a day that goes by that I do not spend time rethinking careers that have been lost over my decisions and the cost of decisions that I’ve made in terms of both human and financial capital.
This blog series is written for a specific community: those who envision themselves sitting in the top organizational chair. If you are tentative and unsure if the top is the right place for you, please understand that it is not my intention to scare you away, but rather to inform and advise you of some of the challenges you may encounter. Men and women who choose this career path are driven to it, and no matter what I write, they will believe they will be better than me, won’t make the mistakes I did, and most likely will read the book for entertainment, but not because they feel they need to. These folks are the “Type A”, “High D” driven people who cannot be stopped by anything. They will make decisions quickly, recover if they make a mistake, and what they don’t know they’ll learn. They will outmuscle you if they are challenged. Most of these individuals have great oratory ability, are extremely quick on their feet, and most important, don’t know how to be in a room without being the leader.
My target audience is the young up-and-comers who have a vision of sitting in the chief executive officer chair one day. Those kids out there who think that they have what it takes to walk tall in the C-suite environment not simply for the money, but because they think they have what it takes to be there. I say, go for it. No one is going to seek you out—you have to make it happen with a lot of confidence and as much experience as you can cram into your young life. Never be afraid and never think that age has anything to do with intelligence; just keep your chin up and go for it.
I also thought about young entrepreneurs and young family business owners who are consistently tasked with fast growth and legacy building, who understand that success has its own rewards as well as its own consequences. While you are not your father or your mother, you may well find that the ways of the past might not work for the future and thus change falls on you to manage. Your family name may take you to the top spot but it will not make you invincible or worthy to lead an organization.
My journey has taught me many valuable lessons. For those of you who want an opinionated insider’s survival secrets for being a successful CEO, this blog series is for you.