Fred Wilson recently wrote a blog post about how when the CEO loses the confidence of the team, this is a signal to the company's board that the CEO's time is up. I have a lot of empathy (and respect) for CEOs. It's a lonely job. But sometimes it is made lonelier by the CEO's lack of willingness or ability to cultivate a relationship with the team that creates a flow of information, and more importantly, a source of vital feedback.
I questioned Fred in the comments, "How does a CEO not get to this place?" (i.e., fired due to losing the support of the team) His brief response: "being self aware, working with a coach, getting good mentoring, listening to the board."
I found this post and the comments to be particularly stirring. This is probably why the following paragraph from another article read a day or so later grabbed my attention:
The greatest danger leaders can face is isolation and an inability to keep learning. Most leaders agree with this in concept but, upon reflection, realize they are more isolated than they thought. For example, as you become more senior, your people are less likely to give you bad news or criticize you for your shortcomings. In fact, most of your colleagues are subordinates who are more concerned with making a good impression on you than trying to give you coaching. As a result of this, leaders need to work harder to seek advice and encourage debate and disagreement. In addition, they have to work harder to see clients as well as solicit advice and constructive criticism from those who observe them. In short they have to work harder to fight isolation and they have to make a conscious effort to keep learning.
From an interview by Alexandra Wolfe with Harvard Business School’s Robert Steven Kaplan on his new book What You're Really Meant to Do.
The stakes are high for a CEO. I have heard from so many sources and observed up-close that not only does isolation make this tough job even tougher, it can have disastrous consequences. Like the one Fred described, for instance. I wonder how many CEOs live with this awareness?