Chief Executive Officers

1 Boards must agree a shared, accurate definition of leadership. Leaders must be able to motivate people to achieve goals.

2 Boards should strengthen the CEO selection process by resolving strategic and political conflicts among themselves. An agreed-upon strategic direction will make choosing the CEO with the right vision for the company that much easier and can clarify the job for them.

3 The board needs to measure every CEO candidate’s soft qualities. Economic measures are important, but integrity, the ability to provide meaning and the talent for creating other leaders are critical.

4 Boards should beware of candidates who act like CEOs. Charisma and glossy pitches can be enticing, but they are rarely the stuff of true leadership.

5 Boards should accept that real leaders will more than likely overturn the status quo.

6 Boards need to know that insider heirs usually are not apparent, and finally, they should always avoid making a hasty decision. Hiring the right CEO is a slow process at best. Ultimately, the surest way for boards to pick the right CEO is to cultivate and nurture talent in the making.

Adapted from Don’t Hire the Wrong CEO by Warren Bennis and James O’Toole. Harvard Business Review, May-June 2000

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