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Rapping CEOs Knuckles? Hardly. by Jim Ramerman
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This information is astounding.  A recent Stanford study reports that two-thirds of CEOs and half of senior executives do not receive executive coaching or leadership development, but they would welcome it to enhance their development.  Why the disconnect?  Business psychologist Douglas LaBier says that CEOs “omit or misconstrue the core coaching element needed to grow their effectiveness: Increased self-awareness and honest self-knowledge about one’s motives, personality capacities and values.”  Stephen Miles, whose leadership group partnered with Stanford on the study, pointed out that CEOs consider coaching as “remedial” versus a way to enhance high performance, as when an elite athlete uses a coach.  Further, he indicates, CEOs are interested in “hard” skills like conflict management and communication, placing any need for “soft skills” like compassion, relationship and persuasion skills far down on their list.

The best coaching programs, LaBier says, are premised thus:  The “infrastructure of successful leadership vision and behavior is heightened self-awareness about one’s motives, values, and personality traits, especially in today’s challenging, fluid environment.”

He goes on:  “The higher up you go in companies, the more you’re dealing with psychological and relational issues. Successful CEO leadership requires astuteness about others: their emotional and strategic personal drivers; their self-interest, overt and covert. These relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge, self-awareness. And you can’t know the truth about another without knowing it about yourself.”

Self-knowledge and the relational competencies they’re linked with are central to a CEO’s ability to formulate, articulate and lead a strategic vision for a motivated, energized organization. Self-knowledge builds clarity about objectives; it fine-tunes one’s understanding the perspectives, values, aims and personality traits of others. When that’s lacking, you often see discord and conflict among members of the senior management team; or between some of its members and the CEO.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, states that 70% of outperformance can be traced to a leader’s EQ as opposed to her IQ.  I believe that to survive emotionally in competitive environments, we often construct protective shells that buffer external feedback, and personal narratives that are in fact skewed or just plain wrong, for the same purposes: ego protection.  The best sustainable breakthrough a leader can summon is breaking through that self-protective ego shell to view, understand and internalize “reality” as (necessary) others around him perceive it.  Right or wrong (it doesn’t matter, what matters is the leader’s awareness)!

Look at it this way: sustained openness permits a reliable flow of more, valuable information that a CEO can utilize to analyze and develop better decisions.  The personal and organizational rewards are immense.

– Jim Ramerman