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Gini Dietrich

Two Qualities Every CEO Needs

By: Gini Dietrich | April 7, 2011 | 
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It’s Facebook question of the week time! I always want to write “Clap! Clap! Clap!” when I say that. Kind of like I always want to say, “Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.” when I get in front of a microphone. But I never do because I’m afraid no one will get it and then I’ll have flopped before I even began.

Wow. That was quite a tangent. Note to self: Stop reading Nitty Griddy.

It is Facebook question of the week time and this week’s question comes from Ces Guerra. Ces is not only a good friend of mine, but also the author of Pill Pushers, which is on its way to the big screen. I’m including his question now, and putting it in writing, so that when he makes it big, he’s constantly reminded that I liked him way before he was a big deal. Well that, and, he says something incredibly kind about me in his question (which is very uncharacteristic).

He asks:

So, I’ve been around quite a few CEOs during the last week. I’ve observed Gini in her role as CEO of Arment Dietrich the past couple of years and appreciate her leadership, creativity and pursuit of excellence. And, because I respect Gini’s opinion so much, I was wondering what her thoughts are on the two most critical roles for a CEO or what two words she would use to describe the model CEO the best and why?

I give you my two qualities in the video below (if you can’t see it in your reader, click here and it’ll magically appear). But, because I’ve only worked for one CEO in my entire career, I’d love to hear your answers to Ces’s question. What are some of the good qualities of the CEOs you’ve worked for and what are some qualities you wish they had? And yes, my team can answer too because I’m curious to know what they’d like me to work on!

Oh, before you go, don’t forget to head over to the Arment Dietrich Facebook wall to ask a question you’d like highlighted here.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

101 comments
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Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

My take on this may be a little more prosaic than some others. i believe that above all else, CEOs need to be able to do things:

1. Be an outstandingly good listener, particularly with people who have some difficulty translating their ideas into words. I go so far as to claim that face to face communications is the core management skill.

2. Keep all employees totally focussed on the core business and the specific target market of the business.

We can all wax as lyrical as we like about vision, leadership, people management and similar matters. They are important. But if you aren't sure precisely "what business you're in" and who you're trying to sell to exact;y, the rest of it falls into a cocked hat. And if you don't listen effectively..........!

That's my ten cents' worth

Make sure you have fun

Best wishes,

Leon

M_Koehler
M_Koehler

And I totally forgot to mention, yes you need to do the "Hello I'm Johnny Cash" bit. If I ever muster up enough courage to do an open mic night, that will be my intro before I launch into song.

M_Koehler
M_Koehler

A great leader instills confidence. A great leader is someone who is a positive reinforcer. A great leader provides fair and honest criticism when there is a failure as well as genuine appreciation when there is a success. They need to be patient, open, HONEST, humble, compassionate, and thoughtful. Too many of us have to follow out of fear of loss of a job. Certainly that is a motivational factor, but not a positive one or a very good one. I am much more willing to go to bat for and go that extra mile for someone who is going to appreciate the extra commitment and isn’t there just to reap the benefits of others hard work and not share in the success. A CEO or any leader who is only interested in being the one in charge and driving the $300K car and fully taking advantage of those corporate perks is not someone people want to look up to. (yes my CEO has several vehicles like that but that’s a different kind of post). I want a CEO that respects their employees and knows they got there through their own hard work as well as the work of many others.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

Ok, back for serious comments:

I've only worked with a mere handful of CEOs in my time, and I have yet to reach that status in my own world. However, much like others have said here, it's important to have compassion and appreciation for the people that make the company role along. The values I've admired most are the ability to inspire and the gift of encouragement to grow - not just within the company or your role, but personally as well.

Looking at my parents, much like the very funny @jackielamp down below, I witness an incredible ability to create loyalty, inspire action and the desire to go the extra mile, and when the times are tough...do whatever they need to do, no matter the position, to make sure the company stays afloat.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Hi Gini,

I've handled internal communications for some large companies and, as such, have worked very closely with several CEOs. The ones who were best, in my opinion, were the ones who truly realized that employees are people--and not inventory.

The ones whom I respected most realized that internal communications was an opportunity to build trust with the staff and bring everyone into the fold. Those were the ones who employees connected with and wanted to work hard for. Forget the corporate speak. Just remember the staff is human. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. You know, people. People with fears, hopes, ambitions, and all that other stuff.

The ones who saw employees as only people who were there to do their job, never understood the power of communication, honesty, dignity, and leadership. They had the very vocal opinions that employees are just "hired help", without realizing that it's a motivated staff or a demoralized one that can make or break a company.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

Apparently @livefyre won't let @Griddy post this SUPER LONG comment (which I'm way too tired to read right now) so she asked me to post on her behalf. I think she should have just put it on her blog and linked to mine! :)

WARNING: Longish comment - I mean article - ahead! :)

Okay - here are my 9.5 cents on what qualities I think a CEO should have.

Leadership Skills and team building capablities - A CEO should be able to manage not only the company employees but the board and shareholders as well. He should know how to maintain his relation with each of these groups as well their relations with each other. Also - for one to be able to build teams he or she must have been a team member themselves at some point. I believe in climbing the corporate ladder to getting to where you are. I have seen way too many CEO's become CEO's for other reasons than experience, know-how, character and so forth...

Honest and eithical - This should go without saying and needs no further explanation. Great public speakers and story-tellers - Let's face it - if you're a CEO then you have your fair share of speeches to give during your reign. Simply put - you need to rock at this! You should have a sense of humor and be able to deliver a motivating speech (when necessary) or any speech for that matter without a monotonous voice. This part should go hand in had with having charisma and self-confidence. Charismatic power is one of the strongest powers any leader can have.

Financially savvy - I'm not saying that a CEO should have an MBA or that they should come from a financial background. But the basics are necessary in order to understant and relate to your CFO. A strategic vision - another trait a CEO should possess - usually includes numbers or percentages of some sorts.They should know how to leverage assets - both hard and soft.

Resourceful - I believe Troy touched upon this already so I won't go into details. But I will say that CEO's should be good problem solvers and in order to be that, you need to be able to find solutions however they can for when problems arise - both internally and expternally.

Good judgement skills and foresight - You need to have a good idea of your company's future - maybe even be able to predict it in some ways. I'm not saying that you need to be a fortune- teller but you need to have great insight. A person with good jusdgement skills is usually bold to act but they need to be prudent when it comes to raking risks as well. Their decisions don't only affect them but the entire work force of the company as well.

Connections - If you're a CEO - you need to know people. The "right" people. You should have the "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" mentality when necessary. I know how it sounds - but in the real world, that's how it works. If you're the CEO of a multinational organization, then you better have international connections and friends as well as the global market experience that comes with that position.

Strong and performance or results-driven personality - If your vision for tomorrow is in place then you should have what it takes to get there all while remaining honest and humble. Steve Jobs is a name that comes to mind when I think of this trait.

A CEO should possess self-control and they should know when to admit their mistakes when they make them. Also, as Shonali. said in her letter to a CEO on her blog, they must take their employees into consideration and should make an effort to communicate with them. After all, they are as important if not more so than your consumers. They are your main audience and if you want them to stick by you, you need to stick by them. You need to support them and reward them for their efforts. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Finally (at least for this comment lol) a good CEO should ask for and be willing to listen to feedback - they should also be personable - much like Gini is and did here with this post. CEO's are no different than normal people and should listen to the feedback of their empoyees if they want to grow both personally and profesionally. Employee perspectives should be heard and taken into consideration. Not only that but they should demonstrate generosity and empathy and place an importance on family. They should care about people and not simply about the money. They should also show that in their everyday actions and operations.

Okay, obviously I could go on here but I think these qualities are enough for now. I may not be a CEO but to me - these and more are the traits that a successful leader should possess. CEO's are human and should act like any other human.

There you go - those are my thoughts as LONG as they may be. Heck, I really should have posted this as an article somewhere haha.

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hi Gini, I think a must for effective CEO's is to accept full responsibility at all times for the performance of the company.

Great leaders accept great responsibility and own it.

JudyHelfand
JudyHelfand

Gini,

I will add that a CEO (entrepreneur/owner versus or brought in) must be by nature generous. Generous with their ideas, their vision, their time, compassion, knowledge and with the profits. I have worked directly for one and very closely with another and what made them great was their generosity. In today's world corporations tend to think only of the bottom line for their stockholders...and they can sometimes convince themselves that giving a few shares of stock to the employees will be a good-enough reward. The best CEO in my corporate career was an entrepreneur of what became a multi-billion dollar company. He never forgot the employees: holiday bonus, yearly bonus based on net profit, holiday party, gatherings throughout the year. He always tried to do the right thing.

Thanks for the conversation.

Judy

Griddy
Griddy

Hahahaha! What's funny is that before getting to your mention of me - all I cold think of when you said "Hello I'm Johnny Cash" is how you had told me once that I should do the "Hello my lovelies" with my actual voice! :)

Okay - now I have to go back up and finish reading the rest of the article cause of course I couldn't wait to come down here and tell you that first haha.

Oh, note to self: If Gini ever stops reading nittyGriddy - send flaming bag of poo to her house LMAO!!! Sorry for stealing your idea but it was worth it ;).

CesLSU
CesLSU

Well I'm not going to let this post go without a comment! Thank you Gini for your insights! As I mentioned, I had been in contact with many CEO's in a short period of time and I got a broad view of many successful CEO's, and some that may be successful, but not necessarily the way I would want to do it! As you described, successful despite themselves!

I've admired your openness and accessibility as well as your drive and pursuit of excellence. So, I wanted you to narrow it down to the two most important things and you did that! In my view, CEO's need to be thick skinned to make tough decisions. Thick skinned to take the criticism along with the conflict that ordinarily comes with being at the top. In addition to being thick skinned I think CEO's need to be charismatic. Charisma is what will attract and drive his or her employees or leadership team to accomplish the vision. So that is kind of a twofer Charisma and visionary in one!

I enjoyed reading everyone's comments because leadership is one of my favorite topics! And, thanks for picking my question this week .... What do I win?

TroyClaus
TroyClaus

Great video Gini.

I agree that having a purposeful vision is very important, however, I also think one of the keys to being a great leader is being resourceful.

In many instances we are faced with challenges that can be very difficult to make, being resourceful enough to find the answers to the root cause of these problems is incredibly important.

We also need to remember that when looking to solve these problems, it's never a case of a lack of resources, it's a lack of resourcefulness, so dig deeper :)

Cheers Gini,

Troy

bdorman264
bdorman264

I had to chuckle about the Johnny Cash reference because in the right company I will do that line. It stems from me getting talked into a karaoke fund raiser and the only song I was comfortable with was Johnny Cash's 'I Walk the Line'. I chose that because I didn't really have to carry a tune. In my effort to maintain a certain level of 'coolness' whatever points I have built up would rapidly be taken away if you heard me sing. Talk, anywhere...anytime; sing, only in my car and shower. Only you get to see my dorkiness, I am cool........just ask me.............:)

Good CEO's - passionate, purposeful visionaries. They assemble the right team, provide direction and then get the heck out of the way. They create the atmosphere they want by hiring the right people in the first place; not only are you on the bus, but in the right seat as well.

I want my CEO to be a big picture guy; I don't want him down in the weeds micro-managing every little detail. If you hire the right people you shouldn't have to do this.

Good CEO - slow to hire (the right person); quick to fire.

lgdrew
lgdrew

Taking your point of leading people toward a vision a step further, I think CEOs should not only lead towards a vision but believe in the vision themselves; they should have integrity. <--One reason why I love coming here!

I'd say self-awareness is also really important. Too often people people take themselves or their roles too seriously. I've had bosses take jokes too far (even in front of clients) that I couldn't even make fun of myself. Laugh and learn though, I don't get into those situations anymore (at least with those people).

KarenBice
KarenBice

HI Gini, good post and video. I've worked for and interacted with a few CEO's. IMO, the CEOs who are successful are those who are able to see beyond their title and position. The qualities that I most appreciate in a CEO, or any leader, are courtesy, communication skills and humor. I've worked for leaders who have all three qualities, and I've worked for leaders without all three. You can guess which group I prefer to work for...

AbbieF
AbbieF

Ha! I always want to sing "Feelings" when I step up to a mic.

I agree with your two points and would add empathy and good-listener - I think the entrepreneurial CEO may have an easier time with these as he/she has likely needed their boss to empathize with the team and listen to those in the company in order to succeed. My hope is that those are among the traits that the CEO appreciated on the way up and will be the type of CEO that offers that to his/her organization when in the lead position.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon Leon, I could not agree more about listening! I love it when we have a new business meeting and the prospect spends the entire time talking and answering our questions and then leaves feeling like we're the smartest person he/she has ever met. And all we did is ask questions and listen.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@M_Koehler I wonder, MK, if you would feel differently about the $300K car (who pays that much for a car?!) and the corporate "perks" if the leader communicated well and rolled up his/her sleeves to help in the good and bad times?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@EricaAllison I have zero doubt that, if and when you begin to hire staff, you will be one of the most compassionate and appreciative leaders one would have the opportunity to work for.

teo
teo

@EricaAllison I like the comparison to parents. As a dad I want to do my best to not be full of it, and I'd the same from any CEO I work for. Just leave the BS at the big sales meeting, and be able to revert out of sales person mode.

JustInTheSouth
JustInTheSouth

@Mark_Harai I agree with you. Though I've worked for many who never had that attitude. The only thing they took responsibility was the work that had been done, that went well, most of the time it went well because they had not had anything to do with it! Here is to a group of CEO's on NEVER lead that way!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JudyHelfand Hi Judy! Thanks for stopping by! Generosity is not one that has been mentioned here; what a great addition. I'm going to bookmark this so I never forget that, as Spin Sucks Pro grows, the little incentives throughout the year make a big difference.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@CesLSU You win the fame you got from being on Spin Sucks today. Duh. I wonder...does having a thick skin equate also to not taking things personally?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TroyClaus Resourceful - great one! And you being here reminds me of another one: Knowing how to make money!

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

@bdorman264 Bill, really well said! I always strive for the slow to hire; quick to fire method. The reverse is a disaster.

I also support that getting out of the way part, once you've assembled the right team. The CEO should not only uphold the Vision, but be the caretaker of the company culture - very important.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@bdorman264 I like these additions...you're good serious! It's very difficult to know if you're hiring the right people (I've made LOTS of mistakes in that realm), but I think you're right...if you follow the hire slowly, fire fast rule, you are more likely to make the right choice.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lgdrew I love you for saying we have integrity! Self-awareness is a great one. Knowing where you're strong and where you're weak so you can hire the skills you don't have.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KarenBice You prefer the ones without communication skills, humor, and are not courteous?! :) I also see the leaders who see beyond their title are able to roll up their sleeves and help when the going gets tough.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@AbbieF ok, i would pay triple admission for THAT!!! please oh please do that at CAPRSA!!!!!

M_Koehler
M_Koehler

@ginidietrich Apparently we do, many times over. He has several that are that much as well as some of the other execs. I think a lot of the perks would bug me still. In my case, the salary is obscene as well and one would think that if we paid you THAT much, you could afford some of those perks on your own. I don't think the amount of work justifies the salary in this case. No amount of work would justify it. One year would be enough to retire, by a Greek island, and never have a worry again then have enough left to do the same for several friends.

Griddy
Griddy

Before I come back with my thoughts on this - one question: Where the heck is Alfred? I don't see him in the background. Did JB get to him? Seriously - I want ALFRED back!!!! ;)

bdorman264
bdorman264

@EricaAllison Thanks Erica, I mean how can a leader be a visionary if he keeps getting down in the weeds, right? Set the vision and let your team implement it.

AbbieF
AbbieF

I have a "feeling" there will be plenty of opportunities for singing during CAPRSA. Can't wait.

Shonali
Shonali

@ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @AbbieF Since we're sharing what we'd like to do when we step up to the mic (remember that song, btw?)... I've always wanted to do a PR presentation that really ROCKS. Like with sound, music, lights, etc. It's the actress in me that won't die. Anyone up for that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JudyHelfand I love that the three traits, according to the article, are Conviction, Communication and Courage. Thanks for sharing!

Griddy
Griddy

@ginidietrich I bet you didn't realize I'd notice eh?! haha

Is Alfred not one of the qualities a CEO should possess? ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Griddy I set him on my desk while I recorded. I didn't realized you'd be so upset. He's fine and well!

AbbieF
AbbieF

@ginidietrich @Shonali @Lisa Gerber Late Night w/Shonali starting Gini, Lisa and Abbie -- live at Loews Lake Las Vegas. One weekend and one weekend only, this is a not-to-miss once-in-a-lifetie opportunity.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Shonali @Lisa Gerber @AbbieF I think this settles it. Shonali has to come to Counselors Academy, Abbie will find a spot on the agenda, and Lisa will get us an audience!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Yes, I know there are many business leaders who have outdated ideas and could benefit from learning a few lessons in their industry. There are others who might just be counting down the days until retirement. But for the most part, I really don’t think that’s the case. There are many CEOs out there who are truly passionate about the organizations they run. […]