The image of the cutthroat, greedy and fearsome CEO is perhaps the most common depiction in the media.
But if you’re thinking of following type and adopting a Trump-esque approach to your business, just be ready to accept reduced returns on your efforts. Apparently, a little kindness goes a long way…
A moral economy.
A 2015 study by leadership consultancy KRW International pooled info from employees at 84 U.S. companies. Guaranteed anonymity, the employees were able to honestly rate their bosses’ character.
The results? CEOs with higher marks for character (dubbed “virtuoso CEOs”) had nearly FIVE times more return on assets than those with low character ratings (“self-focused” CEOs). That’s nothing to sneeze at.
4 principles of success.
But what makes a “good character”? According to the study, virtuoso CEOs were valued for their integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion.
We’re of course not surprised to hear this at all. In our scientific study of highly successful entrepreneurs, “tolerance” was one of the attitudes more likely to be seen in entrepreneurial leaders who had started and sold their businesses for between $6m-$1.2b.
In the workplace, this doesn’t mean holding hands and singing Kumbayah. It’s simply accepting each person and allowing their unique qualities to shine for the business. (The F4S app can definitely help with this!)
It is personal.
On the other hand, the study showed self-focused CEOs simply cared about themselves. They bent the truth, made empty promises, were quick to punish and threw employees under the bus.
Yep, that sounds a little extreme. But our F4S research has also found a link between less successful entrepreneurs and a lack of interest to work with people or desire to engage with their team members on a personal level.
The balancing act.
Of course, compassion and forgiveness are not an excuse to be a pushover. In fact, virtuoso CEOs were also better at accountability, focus, strategy and vision than their less-than-friendly counterparts.
We’ve found the same. Optimally, the most successful people always put their business’ achievements first and foremost. But, in today’s world, taking the time to listen and bond with your team can actually help you get there faster.
“Telling others what to do may get the job done, but it does not necessarily activate the creativity or hearts and minds of your team,” says founder and CEO of F4S, Michelle Duval.
“Ask questions, invite input and be open to your team challenging your ideas. This facilitates critical thinking and ultimately an empowered team that can think on their own.”
Is character holding back your career?
Here’s the real kicker – self-focused CEOs gave themselves considerably higher marks than their team did. But virtuoso CEOs rated themselves lower, showing humbleness and a drive to improve.
At the end of the day, a low character score doesn’t make you a bad CEO (or person). We simply call this a “blind spot” and it can be symptomatic of many things, like lack of genuine feedback or simply habits forming over time.
What’s important is that good character can be learned, as long as you’re open and willing to work on it.