Sunday, January 28th, 2018

What Great CEOS Do Differently

I am working from Mexico as I do every Winter. Mail comes when it wants to. My husband and I had some mail that came after we left last year, so I wasn’t surprised to open the May-June 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review in January 2018. I was about to toss it into the pile of old magazines, when I saw the cover story –WHAT GREAT CEOS DO DIFFERENTLY.

I write this blog,, based only on my experience. I love research and academic thoughts on leadership, but was too busy as EVP of Organizational Development for the Delhaize Group to indulge in much pure study. For fun, I decided to write my own observations on what behaviors set the best leaders apart BEFORE reading The HBR article.

What Great CEOs do Differently

Here are the behaviors I chose about what great CEO’S do differently.

Great CEOS:

understand the industry they lead and the mega business cycle it operates in.

— are curious and driven as experiential learners especially about the business. They are willing to scan and explore and invest in pragmatic research and development.

— know when to make a decision and have good timing on making the call.

choose talent well for their team, not based on personal connection but on the contribution the person can make

value learning and teaching for everyone in the organization. They use every opportunity to teach about the strategy and the business whenever possible

— have multiple ways of staying in touch with the people of the company at all levels with both formal and informal levels

protect core values about fairness and safety in the organization through policy and decisions. They could do real time streaming about big decisions across the company and keep their integrity

— make people feel their presence and imprint so that associates can lean into their work with the sense that things are managed well and are heading in a good direction

— ring true at home, at work, in good times, and in crisis. The same person shows up.

— keep the company focused on the customer/consumer even during re-branding, strategy change, logistics realignment and whatever other big project that could consume the company

— are concerned about the company being a good place to work (compensation, policies, development) so all can prosper.

— keep a steady hand on the tiller no matter if the seas of the business are confused.

stay visible to all in the company as an inspiration, a galvanizer and someone to respect

— create a stable company culture that can produce steady results over time and are in the role long enough to do so


Here are the behaviors from the Harvard Business Review article written by Elena Lytkina Botelho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, Stephen Kincaid and Dina Wang. (See article for more depth)

The Four Behaviors That Set Great CEOS Apart are: (Envelope please)

—They are more decisive–earlier, faster, and with great conviction to make decisions

—They engage for impact—gathering all constituents to move together for results and take the time and effort to do this extensively.

—They adapt proactively when unpredictable events occur and they sense intuitively when new is coming because they stay connected to the world outside the company as well.

—They deliver reliably which involves realistic expectations, systems for execution and having the right team working under them

I grew up in Hannaford Bros Co, a food retailer, that was well run, decent and prospered. I spoke to Wall Street Analysts about my work in innovation such as self- managed teams. After my presentation, several analysts came up to talk to me to say, “Don’t let Hannaford Bros get too innovative. We love how dull and consistent they are every single quarter. Hannaford Bros tell us ‘this is what we are going to do’ and then they do it. That’s the formula we like.”

Compare my quick notes to the findings of the research. Most of my experience folds into the findings. Why? Because I worked with quite a few great CEOS and I observed them up close what they did—and didn’t. Lucky me and all else who worked for them.















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