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Vision, Leadership, and the CEO

I believe that strong leadership is the single most important requirement for any endeavor to be successful. Businesses, sports teams, non-profits, and organizations of virtually every kind benefit from the presence of strong leadership.

We probably all recognize the CEO (or President) as being ultimately responsible for the leadership and success of a company. What may be less widely agreed to is the belief that their most important function from a leadership standpoint is taking the vision and showing the way there. It’s about being out in front of the company communicating the strategy, tactics, and execution plan, and then working with the team to make it happen. It’s painting a landscape of the future while giving the right guidance and resources to the right people at the right time to get there. It’s leading versus doing.

The temptation to leave the role of leader behind and assume the role of “doer” though can be great during difficult times. We have all experienced senior level leaders “rolling up their sleeves and helping out” in times of perceived crisis. On the surface this is admirable and often seen as leading by example, but an underlying tendency for most people is to return to a place of comfort during uncertain or challenging times, whether that “help” is needed or not. This can happen to even the most experienced executives without them realizing it. So, a CEO who may have been highly successful in a functional role earlier in their career may very well “jump in and help” instead of focusing on providing the appropriate guidance to those that should be responsible. This behavior doesn’t just distract from their responsibility for the vision, but also removes an invaluable opportunity that future leaders need to learn and grow. It’s doing instead of leading.

One way that the best leaders avoid this trap is by recognizing the importance of the company vision, the role it plays in the company’s future success, and the leadership and commitment it takes to accomplish it.

Most important though is the recognition that leading the company toward its vision belongs only to them.


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