I miss it already. Corner Office. For many moons my favorite Sunday morning read.
On Sunday, October 27, the New York Times posted Adam Bryant’s final Corner Office column. 10 years. 525 interviews with CEOs, gleaming their wisdom and insight on what they know about leading a business, condensed into a half-page read. Hiring the right talent. Creating high-functioning teams.And the lessons they learned along the way that got them to the top.
Let me be clear. I LOVED Corner Office more than most any business book I have read. I am in mourning.
Good for us, Adam Bryant went out with a bang. In his final column Bryant synthesized some key recurring themes from his decade of speaking with CEOs. Here’s the one question that instantly seized my attention:
What are some common traits successful CEOs have in common?
Hint: A similar background or straight career trajectory are NOT a common factor. Successful CEOs often came from decidedly unexpected backgrounds and schoolings. Many do not fit the stereotype of the straight-A student and class president predestined for great success. Some have backgrounds in music, theatre and education. Some had decidedly low grades in school.
No, the common traits of successful CEOs center on specific leadership qualities and mindsets. Here are Bryant’s TOP 3. CEO or not, I urge you to integrate them at once in your everyday life:
Question everything. Make this a habit. Be curious about how things work and how things might work better. Be curious about people and their back stories. Choose curiosity. Avoid the trap of thinking that you know it all, know better, know because what you know worked in the past. Show up every day with a curious mind and apply this curiosity in all transactions. Be vigilant in your curiosity.
Don’t avoid conflict. Don’t go into denial when the warning signals go off. Do not exaggerate challenges but certainly do not minimize them, either. Instead, choose to stay close to the fire. Will that be uncomfortable? Likely yes. Consider discomfort part of your job description. The more comfort we find in feeling the heat, the quicker we contain or harness the fire. Avoidance does not beget success. Choose discomfort.
It sounds so so obvious but let me spell it out. Sure, have aspirations. Be mindful of company politics and career tracks. But you will NOT advance if you don’t excel in your current work. Focus on present-day excellence over your career trajectory. Stay in the present moment. Solve problems every day. Motivate others every day, challenge the status quo every day. Do NOT show up as a hungry and ardent career climber, even in moments when you may feel impatient with your current role or the scope of your influence. Choose success right here, right now.
As I read through what I just jotted down I feel reaffirmed. So simple. These CEOs know. And come to think of it, not all that hard to apply. Thank you Adam Bryant, thank you CEOs for 10 years of practical and enlightened leadership wisdom.
Now on to everyday leadership impact. Simple, yes?