Monday, September 8th, 2014


I have been thinking about how CEO’s need to have the right combination of tender and tough. Most tend in one direction or the other. 

There is no tougher job than the CEO role IF you care about your business AND the people in it–equally.  I know there are top leaders who are pure jerks, wanting only the power and the money and the status. Luckily, I haven’t worked with them directly. I write from my experience, not from theory.  I may have been extraordinarily lucky–or naive, but I worked with leaders who wanted the business to thrive and the people to thrive as well. Not that they didn’t enjoy their own success. 

I’ve watched and helped CEO’s grow into their role and how they seasoned into
well rounded leaders.  If they started out tender, they blundered in one way.
If they started out tough, they blundered in a different way. All CEO’s blunder and some learn!! Learning to add toughness to tenderness is as difficult as adding some tenderness to toughness.  

Learning to fire a colleague you enjoy
Facing a hostile board
Hurting many people to save most people
Knowing quite a few people criticize you daily and enjoy your mistakes
Making a big bad decision that is humiliating and takes recovery measures

These things make you tough.
You have to armor yourself.

AND you have to be able to take the armor off to:
Talk straight without harming 
Address a large group of people from your heart, not just your head
Reflect on your own feelings to guide and change your behavior
Know when you are defeated and need support of all kinds
Open yourself to listening to your people and your company 
Trust your intuition

Balancing tender and tough, not letting one dominate, being able to use both faculties is what makes a great beyond good CEO.  It’s a choice to do the difficult. 


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