12 CEO (Leader) Diseases and Prescriptions

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I read a great article in Chief Executive Magazine last month which I flagged planning to post the highlights. I’m finally getting to this!

Dr. Robert Kuhn, who has 12 years experience in M&A and has worked with 15,000 companies and their CEOs, summarized 12 CEO Diseases and How to Treat Them.

I’ve seen many of these diseases take hold of leaders I’ve worked for or with…and I have to fight off a few of these bugs as well. I’m posting it here because Chief Executive Magazine may not have a huge reach and I want to share these with a wider audience than just CEOs. These diseases should be guarded against among General Managers, SVPs, VPs and any senior leader or manager.

I’m only sharing the disease and an excerpt from Dr. Kuhn’s ‘prescription’. I encourage you to read and distribute the full article here.

Some of the "diseases" that CEOs catch may seem minor; these can be the virulent ones that morph stealthily into major corporate illnesses. Following are some CEO diseases and my prescriptions for treating them.

Talking Too Much
Prescription: Track the percentage of time you speak compared to that of your subordinates. Yours should be a lot less.

Goals Too Aggressive
Prescription: Set goals that have, say, a 35 to 45 percent likelihood of success.

Power Building Trumps Wealth Building.
Prescription: Take this psychological test. When making a big decision, ask yourself how it will build the market value of your firm. Then, immediately, shift the introspective question to how the decision will increase your personal power. It is the speed of your answer, not its substance, that I’m assessing here.

Not Respecting or Recognizing the Ideas of Others
Prescription: Do the opposite of what comes naturally.

Seeing Only Summaries
Prescription: You know the critical success factors of your business.

Don’t Fall in Love
Prescription: Engage the executive most likely to call your favorite business babies "ugly."

Feeling Invincible
Prescription:: A sobering exercise is to analyze your career, looking for "luck." Also, don’t believe your own hype.

Personnel Too Similar
Prescription: Look at your key external relationships; target those who are markedly different from you, and ask yourself whether any of your top executives are like them. If not, hire some.

Generalizations
Prescription: Recognize that as the world has become progressively more narrowcasted in demand and supply, the power of generalization has become progressively more suspect.

Not Asking the Stupid Question.
Prescription: Go out of your way to ask stupid, dumb questions — even when you don’t need to — just to get your ego conditioned to how it feels.

Falling for Current Trends.
Prescription: Your instincts are often a better strategic guide than the hot stories in the latest business magazines.

Falling for Contemporary (finance) Tricks.
Prescription: Most CEOs should be wary of cutting-edge finance and simply stay away from tax dodges. Playing near the foul line isn’t worth it.

Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an international investment banker and corporate strategist, is senior adviser to Citigroup Investment Banking. He is the author or editor of numerous books on business and finance; his latest is China’s Banking and Financial Markets "The Official Report [of the Chinese government]", forthcoming from John Wiley & Sons.

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