A crisis of confidence at the top

I had been asked to deliver a seminar to a group of CEOs of medium to large organisations and met the organiser of events in the rarified atmosphere at the top of the Park Lane Hilton. I imagined speaking about innovation in the workplace, managing talent in difficult times or some such topic of interest to these high fliers. Instead of offering up my thoughts I decided to ask the coordinator what, given his knowledge of the group, they might require.

‘Confidence’ was his immediate response.

I was taken aback. How could these successful people lack confidence? On musing further I realised a number of issues that I had forgotten from my research a few years ago for my book Fast Track to the Top.

  1. It is lonely at the top. You can’t confide in your top team as your subsequent actions might involve their careers so no objectivity of advice can be found there.
  1. Only 6 CEOs out of my research group of 80 had been formally trained and prepared for the job. That in itself would lead to a lack of confidence in their leadership skills. Perhaps this group of CEOs I was being asked to talk to were similarly unschooled in CEOness.
  1. As a result of research from Canada we know that that leadership of an organisation can influence performance by ±15%. And we know that the major differentiators are in the areas of leader personality and cognitive ability. With so much riding on the role no wonder there is a crisis of confidence. Support should be built in with the job.
  1. Rarely do very senior executives undergo psychometric testing for a CEO role. It is usually through the old boys- mostly boys- network that such posts are sought.

Why is it that CEO development happens after they are in post or not at all? Why is it that companies are still promoting good experts and not good leaders? With so much at stake why is it such a lottery?

Through a series of monthly sessions or a shorter programme of master classes, our Key to the Boardroom course helps transform a business’s most prized assets ; namely its people.

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