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Are Leaders Born or Made?

It’s unfortunate, but common, to see headlines about CEOs who have been fired because they've failed performance-wise, or have drawn too much negative attention personally or professionally. Poor-performing CEOs quickly drive down an organization’s success and often result in negative publicity, declining sales and loss of stakeholder confidence.

This explains why the field of leadership development has grown to the billion dollar market it is today. In the past, C-level executives had limited opportunities for personal or professional growth. Hiring an executive coach was seen as a dirty little secret, as executives didn’t want to show any kinks in their armor. But today, hiring executive coaches no longer carries a “stigma.”

The wisest leaders understand that the business environment has changed, and executives have the added stressors of global issues to manage, ever-evolving technologies, a tremendously competitive marketplace, and being “on call” 24/7. They recognize that their senior position creates isolation – their team might be reluctant to provide honest, objective feedback that’s necessary to help their leaders evolve. CEOs that work with executive coaches are often regarded as eager to learn, ready to accept honest feedback and willing to be held accountable for their actions – all qualities of a leader who will stay on top.

One of the most revealing looks in the use of executive coaches was a Harvard Business Review article that discussed Michael Dell and his executive coaching . Faced with the first major technology downfall in 2001, Michael wanted to ensure he and his leadership team worked more cohesively, and he wanted to change the culture at Dell. He felt that changestarted with him, so he asked for a 360 degree survey and got some tough feedback about how his style put people off and was not inspirational. He made a commitment to change his style to be more appealing and inspirational.

Today, Dell still uses assessments for most of their managers, providing annual feedback for their development. Since then several CEOs have publicly stated the value of executive coaching during their careers, including eBay’s Meg Whitman, Pfizer’s Henry McKinnell, Unilever Group Co-Chairmen Anthony Burgmans and Niall FitzGerald, and Belo’s Robert Decherd, whohave all successfully worked with coaches. Former Bain & Co. CEO Tom Tierney found his coach so helpful that he sent his wife Karen to see him, too. And Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill hired a coach to help him transform the lumbering department into a more responsive branch of government.

Successful CEOs start with a set of leadership traits that have been associated with strong leaders, such as ambition, drive, emotional stability, emotional intelligence, and extraverted personalities that can rally support and action. However, just possessing these traits doesn’t mean you’ll be a great leader. Leaders must also learn from experience. To prepare for the requirements of their challenging roles, they should develop the prerequisite competencies – shaping strategy, business acumen, seasoned judgment, powerful communications, operational excellence, and the ability to inspire others – which is learned by doing.


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  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.