Lessons about the importance of CEO character traits, can be found in the rubble left by Bob Diamond, who led Barclay’s into temptation and then resigned as CEO.
Diamond shines with a particular kind of light somewhat akin to that of figures in a wax museum – not real, inauthentic. Add in a touch of sociopathic and/or narcissistic leanings.
You don’t see the light? Not to worry, I have three questions and a method for you to weed out this list of CEO character traits.
Importance of CEO Character Traits
Over my career as a consultant, advisor and coach to executives and high potential leaders, I’ve been asked many times, “What do you consider the most important leadership qualities?”
The list below addresses desirable CEO character traits, but clearly finding the right CEO is not only about character. The cognitive and emotional intelligences are also important, but nothing brings down an organization to the same degree and in the same way as destructive CEO characters traits, which are the opposite of:
- Ego-management – Note: This is not lack of ego. What I mean is an internal CEO (conscience, pre-frontal cortex which performs “executive functions”) who guides the ego to behaviors that advance the vision, mission, goals, and desired outcomes. (For the best in class ego manager, read about Abraham Lincoln in Team of Rivals.)
- A balance of humility and self-confidence
- The ability to feel a sense of shame (operates with a moral compass)
CEO Character Trait Questions
The following three questions, or variations thereof, assess for these CEO character traits. But the questions alone are not sufficient, so continue reading what follows the list to get to the heart of the assessment.
- Tell us about a time you felt a sense of shame, the reason, and what you did after the fact?
- When in your role as a leader have you experienced your ego getting in the way?
- What were some of you proudest moments as a leader? (Listen for whether the candidate shines the light only on himself or whether he includes others.)
Who is Your Karen Morgan?
How you listen, and for what, is more critical than asking the exact right questions.
Karen Morgan is an HR business partner and executive confidante, who works for a client company. She is also a human laser beam who can read character and culture fit instantaneously, and with amazing accuracy.
Find your Karen Morgan. Her role in the interview is to read the CEO. In addition to hearing what the candidate says, your Karen will observe the slightest visible, and sometimes not visible, signs of his/her comfort or discomfort with the questions.
If Karen gives the thumbs down, pass on this particular CEO. You will regret it if you don’t.
Your additional questions are most welcome.