What I Admire In A Good CEO

18 November 2009 | talking about Leadership


I Am A CEO Stalker

I have to admit, I am a CEO stalker. Not in the creepy sit outside their house kinda of way. However, I must admin I did drive by Warren Buffet's office and house a few time. When I say I am a stalker I am more of an admirer. I am someone that loves getting inside the mind of a great CEO (or CEO type person). I read as much as I can about them, I watch all the interviews, I track the performance of their companies and more. Some CEO's are very hard to follow and some are very easy to follow. Some are more out spoken and some value their privacy. Some of the CEO's I love to follow are Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon, Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, T Boone Pickens, Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson, Jim Cramer, Jack Welch, Tony Hsieh, Gary Vaynerchuk, George Soros, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and many more. I mention all of these guys because they are all over the board. Not one of these guys are the same in any one way. Some are really successful and fame found them, some have become famous just telling you they are successful (and clearly they are but we might not have known had they not told us), some of these guys have been very successful using themselves as marketing objects to push their wares. Every one of these guys and many more are worth studying and understanding. They are wired in a very special way.

The Know-It-All CEO

Today, I found myself day dreaming about how do I personally filter these guys. When any person speaks you have to filter what they say. How can I tell who is pumping their wares and who is speaking from the heart? How can I tell who is really an expert on the topic or just had a few lucky turns in life? Nowadays everyone is some sort of expert, thanks to the Internet. One things keeps standing out when I watch, read, and listen to these guys talk. Some of these guys will outright tell you what you should be doing in sort of a know-it-all fashion. Sometimes when you are so entrenched in a topic you do become a know-it-all because you very likely might be. Years of experience does make you a know-it-all in certain topics. I do not mean that as a put down, but I feel so many CEO types just stop after they got their first break. I believe that is a mistake. If a CEO made a few correct choices, and was successful their no dummy but I would not add them to my list of truly great CEO's.

The Long Time Great CEO

I feel the truly great CEO's are not know-it-all's, they a great processors of information. They truly believe they can not know it all. There is always more information to process. The less know-it-all CEO's will not answer questions directly. They might give you some big picture guiding principal, but they will also explain the factors that contribute to the question you are asking. A great CEO in my view, might not know the correct answer but knows all the possible inputs and knows all the possible outputs. A great CEO is a sponge of knowledge. I believe a great CEO can take all the soaked up knowledge and process it in a case study type fashion and make a decision. So many CEO's got lucky and made a few great decisions that got them where they are today. The great ones just use that first few lucky decisions as another input stream and continue to seek out other input streams as well. The CEO's I admire most have a very wide range of interest, and work every day to soak up more and more knowledge where ever it comes from. They see experience as just another form of knowledge. A great CEO is as interested in talking to you as you are in talking to them. They realize they have something to learn from everyone. The real power is the ability process input and determine the best outcome. Not live on the wave of past success.

tags: ceo, startups, venture capital

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