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7 Ways You Can Up Your Leadership Game as a CEO

7 Ways You Can Up Your Leadership Game as a CEO

The people who get a company from $0 to $1 million often aren’t the same people who can get a company from $1 million to $100 million.

And, in many cases, that includes the CEO.

Growing companies demand that the people inside the building grow along with them. CEOs who can’t, or won’t, scale their leadership skills to match are putting the company’s potential — and their jobs — at risk.

If you feel like your performance has plateaued, incorporate these seven strategies into your work routine and get back to Making BIG Happen.

1. Conduct 360 Reviews

Often the first step to improving your leadership is widening your perspective. A 360 (degree) review can give CEOs a better understanding of how their job performance is affecting every layer of the organization.

Gather anonymous input about your performance from your executive team, board members, employees, and CEO coach. Some CEOs might widen the circle to include even more key business relationships, such as major customers, your banker, shareholders, or government bodies you work with regularly. You could ask respondents to rate your key competencies, such as how well you motivate high performance, inspire collaboration, or demonstrate emotional intelligence. Or you might provide a blank canvas for stakeholders to explain what you are doing well, what you’re overlooking, and what kind of leadership would help each respondent achieve their targets more efficiently.

Remember, a 360 review should be focused on the specific ways you affect the people who are most important to your business. Improve those interactions, and the business will improve as well.

2. Prioritize Self-Care

For CEOs, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. According to a 2023 study by Deloitte, a high percentage of C-suite executives — including CEOs — reported feeling “exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, lonely, or depressed.” You just can’t bring out the best in the people you’re leading when you’re not your best self. And study after study has found that stress and related mental health issues aren’t just bad for leadership, they’re bad for your health and longevity.

It’s easier to prioritize your physical and mental wellness than you probably realize. Flex some of that boss muscle and take back control of your schedule. Block out time every day for exercise, reading, meditation, or even a power nap. The business won’t fall apart if you take a long walk over your lunch break … but eventually, it will suffer if you don’t.

3. Establish Your Power Hour

While you’re reworking your schedule, consider adding a daily Power Hour to your routine as well.

For 60 minutes, close your door, silence your cell phone, and focus like a laser on the highest-priority items on your to-do list. You could use this time to review low-hanging KPIs and make a plan to aim higher. Perhaps there’s a promising leader at the second tier of your organization whom you want to coach up. Maybe you’ve gathered all the necessary data for a major decision and you spend a couple of Power Hours setting the company’s course.

In a sense, an effective Power Hour can also be part of your self-care routine. By giving yourself time and space to focus on what you alone can execute, you’ll feel more accomplished and more purposeful when it’s time to re-open your door to the needs of the rest of the company. And if a full Power Hour is a bridge too far, then take two 30-minute breaks during the day.

4. Build a Culture of Continuous Learning

All CEOs say that they want an innovative, creative culture where their best people feel free to work outside the box. But what are you actually doing to inspire that culture? Are you taking time to read through the stack of industry periodicals on your desk? Have you registered for conferences and industry summits that will spark new ideas and refresh your perspective throughout the year? Are you listening to mind-expanding podcasts like this one?

Be the model of learning and growth that you want your employees to exhibit. Inside the office, that means encouraging and being responsive to feedback, admitting when you don’t know the answer to a provocative question, and taking an interest in your subordinate’s jobs. Spend a day with your new AI team and let them walk you through how they’re collecting and analyzing data. Shadow your salespeople and ask them what you can do to help them sell more effectively.

Also consider giving your best people more time to better themselves outside of the office. Sabbaticals and weekly allowances for volunteering or taking classes are very attractive benefits when you’re competing to attract and retain top talent. So are mentorship opportunities and clear paths to gaining new skills and experiences that could lead to promotions. And when you’re registering for conferences, consider inviting team leaders and C-suite execs to join you so that you can all learn something together.

5. Host Futurist Sessions

The end goal of your learning initiatives should be a better future for you, your company, and your key stakeholders. Think of Futurist Sessions as forums to crystallize what you’re learning, individually and collectively, into strategic plans. Discuss trends that your company should embrace and potential disruptions that you need to get ahead of. Invite guest speakers who can bring you up to speed on new technologies, strategies, and philosophies.

Above all, be an active participant in these sessions, but don’t dominate them. This isn’t your TED Talk, it’s an opportunity for you to shine a spotlight on other people and new ideas that could transform your company.

6. Engaging in Artistic or Creative Pursuits

Winston Churchill loved to paint. Steve Jobs studied Japanese design. Warren Buffett plays the ukulele. David Solomon is a part-time DJ.

Engaging in artistic or creative pursuits outside of work — or when you’re taking a 10-minute break — stimulates parts of the brain that check out when you’re balancing the books. In addition to helping you relax, engaging your creativity could spark innovative solutions to business problems. Art can also improve our empathy and the connections that we feel to other people, which could help you practice high-EQ leadership more effectively with your diverse, multigenerational workforce.

7. Win Less, Lead More

CEOs tend to be competitive people, and we often couch leadership in the language of sports: winning, losing, beating our competition, building teams, crossing the finish line. But CEOs who lean too heavily into these metaphors often end up acting more like know-it-alls or bullies than leaders.

“Our obsession with winning crosses the spectrum of our lives,” warns business coach Marshall Goldsmith. “It’s not just an issue in our professional lives, it works its way into our personal lives as well.” Effective delegators become obsessive micromanagers. Trivial disagreements between spouses start racking up until the relationship reaches a breaking point.

The best leaders learn to focus less on being right and more on guiding the team toward the right decision for the company, regardless of who comes up with the best idea. An openness to feedback and challenging ideas can help CEOs achieve that leadership perspective, especially if they work with a CEO coach who holds them accountable for their blind spots. And as you learn to embrace self-awareness and humility, you’ll grow into more than a winner: you’ll be the leader your company needs to keep Making BIG Happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.

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