The Idea: In a recent Inc magazine article, CEO David Walker spelled out his favorite interview questions for understanding a candidate’s potential fit, but one of the questions wasn’t like the rest: “What were the characteristics of the best boss you’ve ever had?” Why is this question so revealing? People remember what impacts them – and this is a clue into what they value in a leader. There is no perfect boss, but here’s how most people would answer the question.
A recent HBR article titled, “Four Things That Set Successful CEO’s Apart,” suggests that the very best executives are great because of patterned behavior, not their academic or corporate pedigree. Reflective questions prompt an internal dialogue faster than most external influences and it turns out this is the number one tool that exceptional leaders use in determining actions.
Here are the four behaviors that matter and questions we all must ponder:
1. “Deciding with Speed and Conviction”
There is power in speed. It can bring tremendous success to a team and even when it leads to poor decisions it expedites the turnaround process. The research described in the article supports this point: of poorly rated executives, “we found that only 6% received low marks because they made decisions too quickly. The clear majority—94%—scored low because they decided too little, too late.”
These executives were constantly surrounding themselves with informed and dedicated advisors that allowed for fast turnarounds. We all need catalysts that help us move quicker. Make a faster decision.
Question: What’s the impact (honestly) if you are wrong?
2. “Engaging for Impact”
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons experience and failure are so highly valued in the CEO market is because it indicates that they are pressure-oriented, able to endure unexpected problems, internally and externally. The research suggests that, “more than three-quarters of the strong CEO candidates in (the) sample demonstrated calm under pressure,” and, “two-thirds of the CEO’s who excelled at engagement were rated as strong in conflict management.”
It’s the age-old truth rearing its head again: it’s impossible to be great without being able to embrace dissent.
Question: What smart, dissenting voices have you shut out of your life, and how do you positively re-engage them?
3. “Adapting Proactively”
Adaptable CEO’s are more than six times more likely to succeed. And the paradox of highly adaptable CEO’s is that their mobility has nothing to do with the present and everything to do with preparing for the future. The biggest difference between CEO’s who ranked highly in adaptability and those that didn’t is that they spent more than twenty percent more time thinking “long-term.”
Adaptability is about “sensing change earlier and mak(ing) strategic moves ahead of time.”
Question: What reoccurring problem keeps getting the best of you and are you being honest about the root cause?
4. “Delivering Reliably”
It’s impossible to read the words “Always Be Closing,” without Alec Baldwin’s silhouette invading your mind’s eye, but the number one characteristic of successful CEO’s was their reliability. Simply put, “a stunning 94% of the strong CEO candidates we analyzed scored high on consistently following through on their commitments.” Similarly, “CEO candidates who scored high on reliability were twice as likely to be picked for the role and fifteen times more likely to succeed in it.”
They come to the table with an open mind about expectations, meeting with every crucial actor and having an honest dialogue with their core partners and customers.
Question: What is your most vital priority and how do you drive to closure quicker?
You are part of a leadership tree. What were the characteristics of the best bosses you’ve ever had? Are you practicing the traits that matter?