The Seven Attributes of The CEO
It is difficult to think of anyone rising to the position of CEO without attribute 6, because attribute 6 relates to accountability: the ability and willingness to take responsibility and get things done. Above all a leader needs to be able to take responsibility, to take ownership of every aspect of her domain and will be measured on her ability to get things done.
Now while this may seem obvious it is not nearly as common as you might imagine and lots of leaders get mired in blame, excuses and denial. To a large degree our ability to take responsibility will dictate our success levels.
A great CEO not only has the ability to be accountable, to take responsibility and to get things done herself but also to create a culture of accountability throughout the organisation. What does it mean for an organisation to have a culture of accountability? Perhaps the best way is to understand what a business without a culture of accountability looks and feels like.
This is the sort of business which perhaps has meetings but no one is ever sure what decisions were made in those meetings. Whatever actions were decided upon in those meetings are rarely revisited. Sometimes people take actions, oftentimes they don’t. Frustration is the most common emotion in such an organisation; frustration and the sense of wandering. Collaboration is rare, as is effectiveness. It is an unhealthy, unsatisfying environment in which to operate, for everyone.
A business with a healthy culture of accountability is much more disciplined. Meetings are effective, clear and on point. People are encouraged to debate vigorously and everyone is expected to have their say, but when a decision is made it is clear and unequivocal. People are able and expected to stand four square behind the decision no matter what their original standpoint. Actions are also clear, well understood and documented. Those actions are expected to be completed by the agreed date by not only the leader but by everyone and there is a collective responsibility for getting things done on time and in full which is respected by all. Such ‘groupthink’ makes collaboration easy, natural and common. That is why we call it a culture of accountability. It just becomes the ‘way we do it around here’.
The difference between businesses with a culture of accountability and those without is palpable. I would suggest that customers, team members and investors can immediately sense whether that culture of accountability exists. Leading a business without such a culture is a stressful and unpleasant experience, as is being part of one.
A great CEO can quickly and naturally generate a culture of accountability. As so many things do, it starts with the leader herself and like all emotions it is contagious and can spread like wildfire throughout the organisation. So you have a choice, to build a healthy culture of accountability, or not.
Like all of the seven attributes I am describing in this blog series the skills are learnable and coachable. Are you going to choose to learn those skills or not.