If You Don’t Have a Steve Jobs Personality, Don’t Fret

What makes an “ideal chief executive officer”?

That’s the provocative question that University of Chicago business professor Steven N. Kaplan considered this week in a piece for Bloomberg.

Are the best CEOs pleasant and humble? That is, do they possess wonderful “soft skills”? Or are they demanding and mercurial? In other words, are they all a little like Steve Jobs?

To figure it out, Kaplan and two colleagues took a look at 300 executives and analyzed their traits systematically. What did they find?

“Execution-related skills were the most important,” Kaplan explained. “The most successful CEOs were those who were persistent, efficient and proactive.”

Graciously, Kaplan noted that Peter Drucker had said pretty much the same thing more than 40 years ago in The Effective Executive (proving that, oftentimes, we’re not really wiser than before; we’re just rediscovering what we already knew).

Photo by: Geoff Charles Image source: Flickr Commons

[EXPAND More]The bottom line: For those of us who worry about whether we have the “personality” to lead and be successful, take heart.

“Among the effective executives I have known and worked with, there are extroverts and aloof, retiring men, some even morbidly shy,” Drucker recalled in that book. “Some are eccentrics, others painfully correct conformists. Some are fat and some are lean. Some are worriers, some are relaxed. Some drink quite heavily, others are total abstainers. Some are men of great charm and warmth, some have no more personality than a frozen mackerel.”

And those were only some of the variations.  “Effective executives . . . differ as widely as physicians, high-school teachers or violinists,” Drucker wrote. They are “indeed indistinguishable from ineffectual executives in type, personality and talents.”

So what’s the uniting quality? “What all these effective executives have in common is the practices that make effective whatever they have and whatever they are,” Drucker wrote.

He then ticked off five practices in particular that the most able leaders have acquired and turned into habits:

1.   They know where their time goes.

2.   They focus on outward contribution and “gear their efforts to results rather than to work.”

3.   They build on strengths.

4.   They concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.

5.   They limit themselves to relatively few decisions and approach them systematically.

From what you’ve seen in your own career, how would you rank these five practices in terms of both importance and difficulty?[/EXPAND]