The Magnificent Seven
Competencies that Compel CEO Success
by Stephen Blakesley

Douglas Ivester was tapped for the CEO role at Coca Cola in 1997. He had a glamorous career leading up to that fateful day. Fortune Magazine had dubbed him as the "Prototype boss for the 21st century." In just two short years Ivester resigned under pressure.

Ivester had served, and excelled, in many capacities including CFO and COO of subsidiary companies. How could someone so successful fall so short so quickly in this new role?

While there is no single answer to that question there is no doubt that the company made a serious mistake in choosing Ivester. Also, there is no doubt that Ivester was deficient in something other than experience - the once believed "bell weather indicator" for success on the job. The message is clear: it is not just about experience. We do not know Mr. Ivester's emotional competencies but believe that part of the answer must lie there.

Emotional Competence, a progeny of Emotional Intelligence and an indicator of likely success on the job, may have been the answer.

Based upon the studies of successful CEOs we believe that the top executive position requires unique competencies beyond those that we typically look to i.e. experience, education, and special knowledge. Our research indicates that the following set of Emotional Intelligence attributes must converted to competencies before one can excel in this all important role:

  • Self-Management:

    An undisputable ability to manage self. Certainly, one cannot manage others without competently managing themselves. The ability to effectively self manage means being able to sense one's own emotions and those of others to the extent that outcomes can be positively managed. Moreover, self-management manifests itself in a clear ability to organize, manage, and motivate self toward superior performance.

  • Leading Others:

    Verifiable ability to see the future, communicate it, and make others believe they want to be part of it. Leading means enhancing the desire in others to be part of something bigger than themselves -- so great that they will act and persist until the goal is achieved.

  • Decision Making:

    The ability to evaluate data quickly and accurately in order to see the next step necessary to reach a predetermined goal.

  • Results Orientation:

    A keen ability to focus on a particular goal or objective, identify the steps necessary to achieve the end result desired, and the persistence to keep going until the goal is reached.

  • Problem Solving:

    A unique ability to clearly identify issues surrounding a problem and build a consensus solution to solve it.

  • Goal Achievement:

    A superior ability to identify key goals and objectives, gain others' "buy in", and overcome or manage obstacles or scenarios.

  • Influencing Others:

    The ability to influence the thought and actions of others to the extent that they become advocates of corporate objectives.

The list of possible competencies is long and there is no doubt that several, not listed here, could enhance one's success in a CEO position, but these are the core competencies essential to superior performance. To avoid the costly mistake of Coca Cola, organizations would be well served to look beyond education, experience, and special knowledge or skills when vetting their next CEO candidates.

Stephen Blakesley is CEO of Global Management Systems, Inc., and author of "Strategic Hiring - Tomorrow's Benefits Today."Contact Stephen by mail: 14550 Torrey Chase, Ste. 255, Houston, TX, 77014; telephone 281-444-5050; and visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2007 by Stephen Blakesley. All rights reserved.

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