Magazine article American Banker

How 'The Perfect CEO' Can Quickly Topple from the Pedestal

Magazine article American Banker

How 'The Perfect CEO' Can Quickly Topple from the Pedestal

Article excerpt

How often have we seen the following scenario:

A new person is brought in as chief executive officer of an underperforming financial institution. For a while, he is the toast of the town, considered a miracle worker.

Then, in what seems only a short time, the CEO is out, and the name no longer elicits praise but often brings no recognition at all.

To answer this, one first must ask: What are the intangibles that make a CEO great in the first place?

Sometimes it is an indescribable talent for motivating people like no one else can.

Why can one orchestra conductor stand in front of musicians and wave a baton with little more than mundane results, while another can elicit beautiful music?

In banking as in music, we do have some clues:

The CEO or conductor knows each individual's role so well that he can empathize and help improve the performance of that role.

The leader is such an understanding person that he or she relies more on semi-psychiatric skills in accomplishing goals, listening closely and then exhorting the staff like a coach assuring players "you can do it."

Sometimes it involves caring, like visiting all departments regularly or showing up at the operations center in a sweater on New Year's Eve so employees can see the boss will not be partying that evening while they work.

It also involves acting like the head of a big family-everyone's successes bring the CEO joy and everyone's woes or disappointments bring sadness.

But what makes great CEOs go stale? What happens to rob them of their effectiveness?

Some causes are easy to see:

The ego takes over. Someone who felt as mortal and prone to mistakes as the next while climbing up the corporate ladder now feels infallible.

The CEO develops a new goal that supersedes managing the bank's performance-such as building a reputation as a civic leader or arranging for a son or daughter to be the next CEO. …

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