Thanks to the proliferation of entrepreneurship and business shows on television, and a spate of bestsellers from the desks of various CEOs, there has never been such an intense focus on business leaders as there is now. And while you may think that every CEO is wildly flamboyant and grows a luxurious long mane of white hair, here are some lesser known truths.
THEY DON’T ALWAYS COME FROM WELL-OFF FAMILIES.
Yes, there are some CEOs who were born with silver spoons in their mouths. But there are many more who started out on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. They’ve either stormed their way up through sheer hard work and grit, or been in the right place with the right idea. That’s why most stories are so inspirational – they tell regular people to believe in themselves and their ideas.
GOOD GRADES HAVEN’T ALWAYS BEEN A SURE INDICATOR OF SUCCESS.
Many of the people at the top have not been the best performers in school or high school. In fact, many never even went to business schools. This isn’t a reflection on their intellect – they’re often highly intelligent and driven – it might just have been that the grading system didn’t suit them or that they blossomed late.
BUT INTELLIGENCE DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE THEM NICE PEOPLE.
For every socially-aware, magnanimous CEO like Warren Buffet, there are a handful of those who are maniacal, self-obsessed, ruthless, incredibly vain, or possess numerous other qualities that make them almost impossible to like. Stories about famous CEOs who are difficult to work with or unethical in their personal lives have been emerging for years now, and it doesn’t seem like the trend is going to falter in the near future.
THEIR HABITS HAVEN’T MADE THEM. WORK HAS.
It doesn’t matter what time a CEO goes to sleep or what he or she eats for breakfast. Compare the habits of the top 5 CEOs, and you might come up with commonalities like early rising or meditation, but they won’t be indicators. What sets them apart from the rest is hard work, knowing what is important for their companies and customers, and making smart choices at the right time.
THEY AREN’T GREAT NETWORKERS.
One of the biggest business fallacies is that you have to network, network, network if you want to make it big. But the truth is, while some people are naturally inclined to building large social circles, many are not comfortable or just don’t feel the need to be the center of a large circle. Many of the most successful CEOs today are reserved and shy away from the public eye. Those in CEO positions have to sit through so many meetings, press conferences, and briefing sessions that they might find an evening with family or close friends to be a welcome change.
IN FACT, THEY MAY NOT EVEN HAVE FACEBOOK AND TWITTER ACCOUNTS.
Many of today’s CEOs are young and very active on digital platforms. But having a fascinating Twitter feed doesn’t necessarily make you a good candidate for the corner cabin. Success doesn’t come from a busy social life or digital presence – but then what does it come from?
IT ISN’T FROM BUSINESS BOOKS OR BUSINESS SCHOOLS EITHER.
Not every CEO is a voracious reader. Nor have they all come from the top business schools. It may certainly help if you’ve attended a business class or two, or if you love reading about great leaders. But that’s not all you need.
THEY’VE NOT ALWAYS BEEN CONSCIOUS ABOUT THEIR OWN IMAGE.
Not every CEO has the personal brand that a Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg has. There was a time when Marissa Mayer was just another employee with great ideas, but today, her own brand is a force to contend with. The image follows the work.
A GOOD CEO DOESN’T GET TO THE TOP BY CHANCE OR LUCK.
It’s usually not a fluke. Getting the rank of CEO tacked to your name isn’t about luck or prayers. Indra Nooyi worked for years before being made Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Some executives build their own company; some are hired into the role; and some move up through the ranks. However they do it, there’s no magic talisman or spell that will bring that kind of success.
There’s no surefire way to get to the position of CEO. For every charismatic, fast-talking, decisive CEO you read about, you’ll find a modest, geeky, reclusive CEO as well. Some of the most wildly successful CEOs today defy all commonly held beliefs about what it takes to reach the echelons of power. And maybe that’s what makes a successful CEO so special – the fact that he or she has risen above the rest and made a mark in the world of business, while maintaining their own ‘je ne sais quoi’.