What Can The World’s Best CEOs Teach Us About Leadership?

By Ted Skinner

ceo leadership

dateMon, Mar 18, 2024 @ 12:25 PM

I read an interesting article entitled "Leadership Lessons from the World’s Best CEOs" from McKinsey, which provides insights from the book "CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest." Authors Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vik Malhotra, all senior partners at McKinsey, draw from interviews with 67 top-performing chief executives to explore what sets these business leaders apart.

They discuss the analogy of CEO leadership to sailing, emphasizing the need for adaptability, resilience, and a clear vision. Key themes include the importance of humility, resilience, strategic board engagement, and fostering a unified team dynamic. The CEOs shared their strategies for navigating crises, like the pandemic, and the importance of maintaining a growth mindset and organizational agility.

Key Insights From The World's Best CEOs

  • Adaptability in Leadership: CEOs liken their role to sailing, where constant adjustments and a broad long term view are essential for navigating challenges.
  • Resilience and Humility: Successful CEOs often come from humble beginnings, demonstrating resilience and a service-oriented mindset.
  • Strategic Board Engagement: Top CEOs leverage their boards as a crucial resource for expertise and support, especially during crises.
  • Unified Team Dynamics: Emphasizing the collective strength and alignment of the leadership team is crucial for achieving organizational goals.
  • Growth Mindset and Agility: Focusing on continuous learning, enhancing leadership skills, and adaptability is critical to sustaining success and navigating future challenges.
  • CEO Excellence and Company Performance: The study strongly correlated CEO excellence with superior corporate performance and sound strategic decisions.
  • Four Essential Behaviors of Excellent CEOs: Successful leaders decide with speed and conviction, engage for impact, adapt proactively, and deliver reliably.
  • Assessment and Development of CEO Excellence: The article emphasizes the importance of assessing and developing CEO excellence early on, identifying their leadership style, and engaging senior executives.

Rhythm Systems' Think Plan Do© Methodology for CEO Excellence

As a CEO or executive team member, your leadership and decision-making abilities profoundly impact your organization's success. In today's dynamic business landscape, being an excellent CEO is more crucial than ever. The article on CEO excellence highlights the traits and behaviors that distinguish top-performing CEOs from their peers, and one methodology that can help you embody these qualities is Rhythm Systems' Think Plan Do© business operating system.

The Think Plan Do© methodology is a system that can enhance your leadership effectiveness by providing a framework for strategic thinking, careful planning, and disciplined strategic execution. By embracing this methodology, you can cultivate the four essential behaviors identified by McKinsey as hallmarks of excellent CEOs: deciding with speed and conviction, engaging for impact, adapting proactively, and delivering reliably.

Deciding with Speed and Conviction: One of the most prominent challenges CEOs face is making timely decisions amidst ambiguity and uncertainty. The Think Plan Do© methodology equips you with a structured process for analyzing information, weighing options, and confidently committing to a course of action. The "Think" phase involves gathering relevant data, soliciting stakeholder input, and thoroughly understanding the problem or opportunity. This comprehensive analysis empowers you to make well-informed decisions swiftly and with conviction.

Engaging for Impact Effective leadership requires engaging with stakeholders, vision casting, and inspiring others to rally behind it. The Think Plan Do© methodology facilitates this engagement by incorporating stakeholder input throughout the process. During the "Think" phase, you actively seek feedback and perspectives from various stakeholders, ensuring that your decisions are well-informed and aligned with the organization's goals. In the "Do" phase, you clearly and enthusiastically communicate your vision and plans, rallying your team to execute with commitment and purpose.

Adapting Proactively Excellent CEOs anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions and competitive landscapes. The Think Plan Do© methodology incorporates a continuous cycle of evaluation and adjustment, enabling you to remain agile and responsive. The "Think" phase involves analyzing market trends, industry developments, and potential disruptors, allowing you to proactively anticipate and plan for changes. During the "Do" phase, you monitor the execution of your plans and make adjustments as needed, ensuring that your organization remains adaptive and competitive.

Delivering Reliably Building a track record of successful execution and follow-through is crucial for CEO excellence. The Think Plan Do© methodology emphasizes disciplined planning and execution, ensuring that your commitments and promises are consistently delivered. The "Plan" phase involves developing detailed action plans, allocating resources, and setting measurable goals. In the "Do" phase, you monitor progress, address challenges, and hold your team accountable, fostering a culture of reliability and follow-through within your organization.

Implementing the Think Plan Do© Strategy Execution Methodology

To successfully implement the Think Plan Do© methodology and unlock your potential as an excellent CEO, consider the following practical tips:

  • Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Embrace a willingness to learn, adapt, and continuously improve. The Think Plan Do© methodology thrives on a growth mindset, prioritizing feedback and continuous development.
  • Foster Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication throughout your organization. Seek input from diverse perspectives during the "Think" phase and ensure that your vision and plans are communicated during the "Do" phase.
  • Empower Your Team: Delegate responsibilities and hold your team accountable for executing the plans developed through the Think Plan Do© methodology. Empower them to take ownership and contribute to the organization's success.
  • Leverage Data and Analytics: Incorporate data-driven decision-making into the "Think" phase. Utilize relevant metrics and analytics to gain insights, identify trends, and make informed choices.
  • Celebrate Successes and Learn from Failures: Recognize and celebrate achievements along the journey, but also embrace failures as opportunities for learning and improvement at every weekly meeting.
  • Create and Follow a Rhythm of Work:Rhythm of Work The Rhythm of Work© is a framework that helps organizations achieve focus and alignment by establishing a predictable pattern of planning, execution, and adaptation to drive strategy execution.

By embracing Rhythm Systems' Think Plan Do© methodology, you can cultivate the essential behaviors of an excellent CEO and help your company achieve its goals and reach your BHAG. This systematic approach will empower you to make decisive choices, engage stakeholders, adapt proactively, and deliver reliably, propelling your organization toward sustained success and competitive advantage.


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Ted Skinner

Blending executive leadership, adaptability, and strategic insight with the Rhythm Systems' Think Plan Do© methodology to empower CEOs through complexity and foster growth mindsets.


Ted Skinner


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