It’s Lonely at the Top: Empowering CEOs to Be Their Best

by RaeAnne Marsh

It’s not only lonely at the top, it’s precarious — as good leaders live up to President Harry Truman’s famous statement acknowledging the responsibility that comes with authority: “The buck stops here.”

Even experienced CEOs running major corporations may not be managing themselves well; focused on managing the company, they’re neglecting some basic aspects of self-care, best practices and more. Ironically, this diminishes their effectiveness in both personal and professional realms.

With strategic and procedural issues constantly coming at them from a multitude of directions, sometimes more basic matters get overlooked or taken for granted. In Business Magazine sought out experts in various business pillars to help empower CEOs to be their best.


Overlooked Imperatives: A CEO’s Essential Focus Beyond the Bottom Line

from Bruce Weber

In the intricate dance of corporate leadership, CEOs often find themselves entangled in the relentless pursuit of profits, market share and strategic positioning. Amidst these priorities, two crucial elements are frequently overlooked: employee well-being and engagement, and adaptability and future visioning. These aspects, while seemingly secondary, are the linchpin for sustained success in today’s dynamic business environment.

Employee Well-Being and Engagement

A CEO’s vision for organizational success is incomplete without a steadfast commitment to the well-being and engagement of the workforce. Often treated as a tertiary concern, employee satisfaction plays a pivotal role in the overall health of a company. Contentment and engagement among the workforce not only enhances productivity but also fosters innovation and loyalty.

Employee well-being is not merely about offering attractive benefit packages; it extends to the emotional and mental health of the workforce. In an era where burnout and stress are rampant, CEOs must recognize the significance of cultivating a supportive work environment. Flexible schedules, mental health programs and avenues for skill development should be integral parts of a CEO’s agenda. Tools like Gallop StrengthFinders at the individual and team level can provide a good barometer and roadmap to maximize the use of individual skill strengths to collectively impact team engagement.

Adaptability and Future Visioning

The relentless march of time brings with it technological revolutions, market shifts and unforeseen disruptions. In the haste to meet short-term goals, CEOs often neglect the imperative of building an organization capable of adapting to change and thriving in the face of uncertainty. Adaptability and future visioning are not luxuries but necessities for anybusiness aspiring to long-term success.

Technological obsolescence can be a silent disruptor, rendering established business models obsolete. CEOs should embrace innovation not merely as a buzzword but as a strategic imperative. Investing in cutting-edge technologies that enhance operational efficiency and keep the company ahead of industry trends is paramount. However, true adaptability extends beyond technology; it requires a corporate culture that encourages experimentation, creative thinking and continuous learning. The CEO should take an active role in the process, using company and staff meetings, stakeholder surveys and personal engagement.

Future visioning involves anticipating and preparing for potential disruptions. CEOs should not view strategic planning as a static exercise but as an ongoing, dynamic process. It demands an acute awareness of industry trends, identification of potential risks and a willingness to pivot when necessary. Diversifying product offerings, exploring new markets and forging strategic partnerships are proactive steps CEOs can take to fortify their organizations against unforeseen challenges.

A company’s ability to navigate change is intrinsically tied to the mindset instilled by its leadership. CEOs must champion a culture of agility, where employees are encouraged to adapt to new situations and contribute ideas for innovation. An organization’s resilience is not solely determined by its size or market share but by its ability to evolve and transform in response to external forces.

While the traditional metrics of success are undoubtedly vital, CEOs must recognize that the vitality of their organizations hinges on the well-being of their employees and their capacity to adapt to an ever-evolving landscape. By prioritizing employee engagement and future visioning strategies, CEOs can lay the groundwork for a resilient, innovative and sustainable enterprise — one that not only survives but thrives in the face of constant change.

Bruce Weber, founder, president and CEO of the Weber Group, assists social-sector organizations in realizing their potential and achieving long-term sustainability through transformational execution.




Many CEOs Underestimate Just How Closely They Are Watched and the Magnitude of Influence They Wield

from Dean Newlund

All CEOs confront a complex reality: They must navigate a delicate balance between narcissism and their inner demons. This hidden struggle subtly erodes their potential and impedes their path toward self-discovery, healing and effective leadership. Their true calling transcends facing vulnerabilities; it’s about achieving “entelechy” — a Greek word that means fulfilling one’s utmost potential. However, this path to realization is frequently hindered by the leaders themselves, as they unwittingly obstruct their progress.

In a recent TEDx talk, Brian Murray, CEO of the Ryan Companies, shed light on one common CEO demon. He emphasized the need to destigmatize depression and argued that doing so is essential for freeing CEOs from shame, isolation and imposter syndrome, enabling them to inspire their teams with a compelling vision. Asking for help from a trusted source is critical. Echoing Murray’s message, the legendary musician Prince once advised against having only employees as friends, cautioning that such friends might withhold hard truths to remain in favor. Therefore, CEOs need supportive friends and family outside of work.

The magnetic pull of a narcissistic CEO can swiftly become a double-edged sword, transforming admirable leadership qualities into pitfalls of arrogance and isolation. Traits like self-confidence and charm, crucial for articulating a compelling company vision, can escalate into overbearing pride, detaching leaders from their teams and the reality of diverse perspectives. Bold risk-taking, once a beacon of innovation, may veer into reckless decision-making, jeopardizing the collective well-being for personal acclaim. As these leaders bask in the adulation of their role, the thin line between inspiration and narcissism blurs, challenging the very foundation of effective leadership. Authentic connections can mellow the narcissistic behaviors that often mask doubt and fear.

In his provocative book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Vivek Murthy, our current U.S. Surgeon General, illuminates the critical need for genuine human connections. Murthy presents a startling analogy, equating the health impact of chronic loneliness and isolation, common with senior leaders, to the risks of smoking 16 cigarettes a day or consuming six strong alcoholic beverages. This stark comparison sheds light on the often-overlooked physical toll of leadership isolation. CEOs frequently prioritize their employees’ needs for meaningful, authentic connections while neglecting their own.

In the demanding life of a CEO, where overwork and lack of rest are common, the neglect of self-reflection and personal growth can alienate leaders from their teams by not walking the talk of the company values (“Do as I say, not as I do”). Embracing humility is not just crucial — it’s transformative, creating a culture of openness, continuous learning and mutual respect. Someone once told me, “Every CEO should have a therapist.”

CEOs must commit to an ongoing journey of self-enhancement, introspection and receptive feedback. Setting aside time for deep reflection can align daily efforts with the company’s vision and values. As highlighted in the book Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise by Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz, the busier the CEO, the more critical the need for quiet time becomes. This solitude is not about inactivity but about creating a space for deep thought, introspection and rejuvenation, allowing leaders to cut through the noise and focus on what truly matters. Just as regular meetings are essential for a company to reflect and strategize, a CEO also needs dedicated time for similar contemplation and planning. The path to effective leadership at the highest levels is fundamentally linked to personal growth and emotional well-being.

After 31 years of coaching, many of whom have been CEOs, I’ve noticed that many CEOs underestimate just how closely they are watched and the magnitude of influence they wield. This lack of awareness can be a pivotal blind spot, as the company’s culture reflects its leader more than any other factor. Healthy, vibrant cultures stem from healthy, vibrant CEOs, while dysfunctional and unhealthy cultures mirror the state of their leaders. Therefore, CEOs must recognize that their actions, behaviors and well-being set the tone for the entire organization, shaping its values, resilience and culture. Embracing this responsibility can transform their journey toward entelechy and guide their companies toward greater success and fulfillment.

Dean Newlund, founder and CEO of Mission Facilitators International, is an executive coach and leadership development and culture change expert.




Be Mindful of How Upcoming Transactions Will Impact Financial Reporting, Cash Flow and Compliance of the Organization

from Chuck McLane

Most people think of accounting as the record keepers. These are the people who tell you what happened after the business transactions take place. However, it is important to keep accounting in the loop before a transaction takes place. While there are a number of areas within accounting that CEOs should be focused on, there are typically two areas of accounting where a loss of focus can be detrimental to the organization. These two areas are revenue recognition and cash flow.

Revenue recognition can become an issue when the CEO fails to include the accounting area in key discussions with marketing and sales. It is too often that marketing and sales are given too much freedom to negotiate with customers and potential customers. These negotiations can lead to modifications of terms related to sales of products or services that can have dramatic impact on when the organization is allowed to recognize revenue and how much it is allowed to recognize. Changing small terms related to when a product is delivered, when title passes from the seller to the buyer or whether the seller has future obligations to the buyer can result in changing the timing of when and how much revenue can be recognized in a transaction. It is very important that the accounting team be aware of all the terms and conditions of the transactions in advance so that the impact on financial statements can be examined before the transaction takes place. This will allow accounting to provide suggestions to changes in terms before the transaction takes place in order to get the desired outcome on the financial statements and cash flow.

Similarly, changing the terms described above can also have dramatic impact on the cash flow of the organization. When the cash flow timing is changed, there can be other important impacts on the organization’s financial performance and thus impact on the financing agreements the organization has with its bank or other lenders. Typically, these lending agreements have covenants that require certain financial ratios to be maintained. Violating these covenants can result in the loan being called. When the revenue recognition and timing of cash flow are impacted by changing the terms of sales agreements, there are dramatic impacts on the organization’s financial statements. CEOs should be informed of these possible changes in advance of agreeing to modification of the sales terms. When accounting is informed in advance, they can help to set terms that allow the organization to get the desired outcomes.

To avoid the problems discussed above, the CEO has to be the leader who keeps the various departments talking to each other. Sales and marketing need to keep accounting informed of sales terms that are changing. The CEO should have accounting model the transactions under the various options to the terms to determine the possible impacts on the financial statements. The CEO needs to make sure that standard sales agreements with standard terms are used so that the expected accounting for revenue recognition, other obligations and cash flows are predictable. Having these be predictable will allow accounting to forecast the results to ensure compliance with technical debt covenants or other areas of compliance that are important to the organization.

The CEO should not only make sure that the departments are communicating on a regular basis, the CEO should be asking how upcoming transactions will impact the financial reporting, cash flow and compliance of the organization. Establishing regular meetings to discuss these areas will keep the CEO current and keep the organization out of trouble.

Chuck McLane, senior managing director of CBIZ’s Phoenix office and the firm’s regional leader for the West, is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the financial services area, including attest, tax, consulting and advisory practices.



Prioritize the Organization’s Financial Story and Internal Controls

from Deanna Peterson

CEOs should focus their attention on two critical aspects that often go overlooked but can significantly impact their effectiveness and the well-being of their organization.

First, CEOs should prioritize their organization’s financial “story.” This includes a thorough understanding of the Current and Forecasted Cash Position. CEOs should not only be aware of the numbers but also delve into the what, why and how behind the financials. Utilizing a data-driven decision-making approach is imperative, as it empowers CEOs to make informed decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s financial health. CEOs who are confident in the organization’s numbers and comprehends the intricacies of financial data can navigate uncertainties more effectively, fostering a sense of confidence that extends into their personal well-being (e.g., they can sleep better at night).

Second, CEOs must ensure that their organization has strong internal controls. Often, CEOs find themselves distanced from day-to-day financial operations, making it vital to establish proper checks and balances. A key component of internal controls is the segregation of duties. CEOs must avoid relying upon a single individual to manage all financial responsibilities. This could look like having one staff member handling bookkeeping, cash deposits, reconciliation and reporting. This situation could result in errors, fraud or other discrepancies. Implementing a system that divides these tasks ensures transparency and accountability and reduces risk. By prioritizing internal controls, CEOs not only safeguard the organization’s financial integrity but also create a framework that promotes trust and reliability within the company’s operations.

Through prioritization of their financial story and internal controls, CEOs can foster both personal and professional success. Following are strategies to accomplish this:

  • CEOs should communicate often with their finance department head (CFO, director of finance, controller, etc.). Consistent conversations regarding plans for the business and its current financial status will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Ensure that the right person is in charge. The head of the organization’s finance department should be a trusted advisor who can adjust systems, processes and reporting to meet changing needs. It is imperative that business leaders have timely and accurate financial information to make effective business decisions. A good finance lead will dream with the CEO, listen to the CEOs vision, and then develop a plan to discuss what they may need to ensure the company never loses sight of the financial position amid change. I recommend investing in the finance department systems to streamline processes and help facilitate timely financial reporting in an ever-changing business environment.

Deanna Peterson is a director and market leader for Arizona and New Mexico at the Phoenix office of Your Part-Time Controller, LLC (YPTC), a leading provider of accounting services for nonprofit organizations. 




CEOs Need to Build Relationships with Employees to Get Back in Touch with Their Long-Term People and Culture Goals

from Sarah Grimstead

A people and culture strategy is vital to any organization. Through an effective people and culture plan, businesses can recruit and retain the right talent to help them achieve their goals. When developing this plan, there are two key priorities CEOs should focus on:

  • Monitor trends in employee satisfaction. When profits are strong, it is easy to see employee satisfaction as secondary to financial profits or rely on the HR department to keep employees happy. Some CEOs might even assume that positive results for the business reflect a content staff. However, CEOs take a big risk when they leave employee satisfaction to chance. Many professionals can be productive even if a toxic work environment prevents them from achieving their best. Over time, though, employees will become disengaged and less motivated. These negative consequences can lead to problems with retaining top talent in the organization. CEOs should not wait until employee dissatisfaction begins to impact their bottom line.

Monitoring data and trends in employee satisfaction and engagement are key for CEOs who want to build a robust organizational culture. CEOs should work with HR to survey employees regularly, monitor trends in their employee retention rates and ensure HR has the budget necessary to build culture. With survey data, organizations can become aware of microtrends that could predict broader issues. Of course, these data points need to be coupled with qualitative conversations with teams, where HR can delve into employee responses and learn more about why the organization might be falling short in certain areas. Remember, the best CEOs plan for uncertain times when times are good.

The most important step of surveying employees is following through. If CEOs ask their employees how the organization can improve yet make no changes, they may lose their trust. Leaders should only ask employees for their genuine feedback once they are prepared to act on it. With that in mind, any CEO who implements an employee survey should prepare to make changes based on the feedback and communicate those changes to their teams, so their staff feels heard and appreciated. Otherwise, the CEO has the potential to cause more harm than good to their organizational culture.

  • Invest in upskilling. Upskilling is a highly effective solution for many companies struggling to find talent. When organizations train an existing employee or a promising new hire, they can build loyalty from employees at the same time as they fill an open position. As effective as they are, upskilling programs are not easy to implement. They require an upfront investment in learning and development (L&D) even before an organization has measurable results. In addition, to find strong candidates for upskilling, the organization may need to shift its recruitment strategy to consider, for example, internal talent and those without a degree.

Most organizations already have L&D programs, yet they may not have built out a comprehensive plan for upskilling internal talent and new hires. However, with more and more businesses dramatically increasing their emphasis on upskilling, CEOs need to think long-term if they want to stay competitive in the labor market. They can begin by forming a group of trusted leaders to assess the state of L&D and upskilling opportunities within the organization. Then, CEOs can ask for the group’s recommendations on expanding their investment in upskilling and, finally, build a team to implement a plan, with the CEO’s approval. CEOs may find it helpful to appoint a chief upskilling, or L&D, officer to oversee these efforts.

When CEOs have so much on their plate, it can be easy to focus on raising profits and building the business with little attention paid to management. In addition, many CEOs put their faith entirely in their HR leaders to steer the people and culture ship. While that can lead to a positive outcome for employees, it can also leave CEOs feeling disconnected from their own culture and teams.

For CEOs to get back on track and gain a better understanding of people and culture, they must create time in their schedules specifically for HR. That can feel challenging, or even impossible, during busy times, which is why it is so critical for CEOs to make people and culture a priority whenever they can. Whether CEOs are reviewing HR’s plan for people and culture every quarter or building out their own, they need to be actively involved.

Most importantly, CEOs need to build relationships with employees to get back in touch with their long-term people and culture goals. No matter how much they trust their chief HR officer to keep their finger on the pulse, leaders will find their organization’s cohesion and culture depends on their own ability to stay connected with their staff. The more time CEOs spend on people and culture, the more they will appreciate its value to their business.

Sarah Grimstead is a regional vice president with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.



The CEO’s Mantra: Create the Maximum Win for Everyone

from Dr. Joel P. Martin

CEOs need to repeat this empowering statement to themselves: “I am creating the maximum win for everyone.” Embracing this mindset puts them at their peak potential to ensure the personal and professional best for themselves and those around them. Their reality is: What they say goes. Their decisions impact their workforce, customers, suppliers and external communities. They define the strategic initiatives and are the role model of their company’s culture.

“Creating the maximum win for everyone” is the essence and the foundation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In today’s challenges to DEI, it’s important to remember that diversity is not a new concept. Various cultures have recognized and embraced diversity for centuries.

More recently, 40 years ago, Roosevelt Thomas, “the father of diversity,” founded the American Institute for Managing Diversity, which was, at that time, the leading source for managing diversity focused on workforce diversity.

Today, Diversity Equity and Inclusion is an important and recognized strategic initiative. “You don’t have to explain why you value innovation, resilience, or integrity. So why treat diversity any differently?” This came from a recent study that asked more than 2,500 individuals — including LGBTQ+ professionals, women in STEM fields and Black American college students — to read messages from a prospective Fortune 500 employer’s webpage that made either the business case or the fairness case or offered no justification for valuing diversity. Researchers found that the neutral versions were the most successful.

Stereotypes, bias, inequality, inequity, discrimination and microaggressions sabotage the CEO Mantra. Stereotypes are thoughts and beliefs applied to all group members without exception. This can be addressed by interrupting stereotypical thinking with learning, education, inclusion and empathetic listening. An effective strategy is to get to know people in that group.

New census population projections confirm that the people referred to as racial minorities will be the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth. For those who may be thinking, “I’m uncomfortable having a conversation with someone of a different race than me,” here are three research-backed strategies:

  • Learn to recognize differences instead of pretending they don’t exist.
  • Work to uncover common ground between you and them.
  • Commit to having difficult conversations instead of avoiding them.

One exceptional resource for gender equity is McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report, conducted in partnership with Lean In. The report is the most extensive study of women in corporate America and Canada, with more than ten million participants. It provides an intersectional look at the specific biases and barriers faced by Asian, Black, Latina and LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities. To quote the report: “While women’s representation in the C-suite is the highest it has ever been, there is lagging progress in the middle of the pipeline — and a persistent underrepresentation of women of color. True parity remains painfully out of reach.”

In this hybrid workplace environment, the multi-cultural and gender mix of diverse people working together, treating people as highly regarded, world-class individuals who choose to contribute to the organization, is essential. No matter their role or title, their race, gender, age or culture, it is up to the CEO to set the standard as the leader. The CEO can create the maximum win for everyone. We still have a long way to go. However, as Vince Lombardi said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Joel P. Martin, Ph.D., president of Triad West and founder of Positively Powerful™ DE&I Consulting, is an internationally known diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging expert who provides DEI&B culture change initiatives, transformational leadership coaching, training and development, events and presentations.




Lifestyle Improvements Are as Important as Pharmaceuticals and Medical Interventions

from Michael Hayden, M.D., M.P.H.

Brain and heart health should be the top two priorities in maintaining one’s best personal health. The lifestyle interventions are essentially the same for both: nutrition, regular exercise, restorative sleep, avoidance of toxins (alcohol, tobacco, some medications), stress management and enriching relationships.

CEOs should start with a medical check-up if it has been a year or more since their last exam. A physician can help set optimal targets for health, including blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and glucose. Recommendations on nutrition and exercise should also be discussed. It’s wise to seek medical clearance before embarking on an exercise program. Once the health targets are set and clearance given to begin a new regimen, the real work begins —making and implementing an effective plan.

Lifestyle improvements are as important as pharmaceuticals and medical interventions. In my experience, CEOs know this. Making it a daily priority is the challenging part. Healthy behaviors are contingent on having a routine that becomes habit. However, a predictable routine can be more difficult for executives who may be in multiple time zones each week.

Health and wellness coaching can help CEOs convert what they learned at their medical evaluation into action to achieve meaningful health goals. This includes creating a vision for health with a strategic plan, setting goals and having accountability. CEOs are familiar with executive coaching to optimize professional performance. Health and wellness coaching follows a similar model and can be thought of as a catalyst for personal innovation and an investment in one’s best future.

Michael Hayden, M.D., M.P.H., is part of the Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program, which combines Mayo’s traditional diagnostic expertise with recent development in preventive medicine and was developed to respect the fast-paced lives of today’s top executives.



As Executives, How Often Do We Truly Invest the Time to Connect with Our Clients?

from Liz Agboola

As leaders, there are profound facets that are often neglected, and yet they are essential for CEOs to become not only exceptional leaders but also exemplary human beings.

Consider the notion of sharing this profound journey with children, with the young souls who are poised to inherit the world we shape today. Behavioral health, as we know, can be a tumultuous and sometimes disheartening place. Yet, the most potent form of empowerment for the next generation comes when they witness us, their role models, actively engaged in the transformative work.

It is easy to be swayed by the narratives spun by nightly commentators, painting a stark picture of poverty, addiction and relentless struggle. But true understanding emerges when they encounter individuals such as “Amanda,” a real person with dreams and aspirations, marred by the arduous journey she’s traversed. The power lies in recognizing that Amanda is not a mere story; she’s a living embodiment of resilience, grappling with her fears and inner demons.

This approach may seem unconventional, but we cannot shield young minds from life’s raw realities. I was reminded of this when my daughter, a mere seven years old, alongside her cousins (not much older), embarked on a mission to deliver food to the homeless. Their actions cast a stark light on our own inadequacies, our complacency. To them, extending a helping hand was not just a privilege; it was a sacred responsibility, devoid of vilification or shame.

This profound insight fosters a culture in which seeking assistance is not stigmatized but celebrated as an act of courage and strength. It encourages an ethos of reciprocity, where the future leaders of our world understand that, in their moments of need, they too can turn to the collective embrace of humanity.

In our drive toward success, there is a truth that frequently slips through the cracks: the importance of returning to the fundamentals. It’s a call to return to the very essence of our roles as executives. How often do we truly invest the time to connect with our clients? Not just within the sterile confines of our offices, but amidst the raw and unfiltered realities of their lives — in the heart of their communities, on the streets, in shelters, temporary housing, during moments of transition?

These experiences have a profound impact, a deep resonance; they are the crucible in which my passion to serve the underserved was forged. Witnessing their daily struggles, experiencing their trials on a daily basis, this visceral connection compels us to intensify our efforts for resources and support. It’s one thing to read the profile of a mother yearning to overcome her challenges, all in pursuit of reuniting with her children; it tugs at our empathy.

But when that same mother finds solace on your shoulder, when her cries echo with the weight of her struggles and adversities, when she implores you to unleash your utmost dedication, then and only then do we transcend the realm of mere statistics. In that sacred moment, we recognize their humanity as an intrinsic part of our own. The fight for resources, the fight for justice, it all becomes deeply personal.

Now, it is vital to acknowledge that this level of direct engagement cannot be an everyday occurrence. Yet, when the world seems to dim the reason of our “why,” when we find ourselves losing sight of the essence that brought us into this space, these encounters serve as the most profound of reminders. They reignite the flames of our purpose — the reason we serve, the reason we fight, the reason we passionately advocate, the reason we willingly sacrifice almost everything in service of the cause.

Liz Agboola is CEO of Trinity Integrated Care, a group of community-based mental health facilities offering 24-hour long term care for those with serious mental illness. 




Strong Leadership Entails Motivation of People and Improvement of Financial Results

from Stephen R. Boatwright

The role of the CEO is all about leadership. The CEO answers to his or her board of directors, provides oversight of management and is ultimately responsible to the shareholders. Strong leadership entails motivation of people and improvement of financial results. A CEO’s impaired mental and physical health can create concerns about whether good decision making is even possible and, as a result, whether effective leadership is being provided to the company. Just as the public fixates on the health and mental lapses of U.S. presidents, shareholders demand strong physical traits and mental acumen in their CEOs. Apart from any hint of mental or physical shortcomings, the CEO might sometimes be viewed as someone who dislikes making decisions or is incapable of making good decisions. The bottom line is that the CEO position can be a lonely one; any transparency of weaknesses exhibited by the CEO often creates misperceptions among the board, management or shareholders about the CEO’s ability to make effective decisions.

Under the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, the term used for the management style of a CEO is the “tone at the top.” It is used as part of the background in the regulations related to Items 404-407 of Regulation S-K under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Effective corporate governance requires corporate board members, and corporate officers who assist the CEO, to develop and implement strategies to lead the company to meet its goals and objectives within the confines of legal regulations. Professionals refer to this concept as having effective “internal controls” or accountability among the management team members resulting from a division of duties.

Two mistakes I most often see with my corporate clients are in their corporate governance structure and how to properly involve outside legal counsel in this structure. The CEO wants members of the board to encourage, affirm and ratify his or her decisions, and, in turn, might discourage in-person meetings. To further limit legitimate input and disagreement, written consents to ratify decisions replace in-person meetings.

There are strong policy reasons why in-person meetings with independent directors make sense. Independent directors should provide opinions independently from salary concerns or from a myopic focus on the industry in which the company operates. Board meetings run by a chairperson — and not the CEO — are also important, as they provide a healthier environment to elicit input from all members of the board. Ironically, the most difficult decisions need the most input from all members of the board and those are the decisions that an insecure CEO often wants to make without board input. Wise counselors make wise decisions, and input from many usually provides better decision making than from one — even if that one is the CEO.

The role of outside legal counsel for a corporate organization is to help the board of directors and CEO provide a setting where important, meaningful decisions can be made. Instead of facilitating autocratic CEO decision making, a good attorney will encourage the CEO to seek meaningful input from his or her board. When shareholders sue corporations, they sue members of the board and management. A CEO is best protected when board minutes reflect a careful, methodical decision-making process. Counsel should be trained to determine when board input is needed.

Unfortunately, counsel is often viewed in an adversarial manner by the CEO. The CEO brings an agenda of results he or she wants to achieve at the meeting and does not want counsel to require the discussion necessary for meaningful input from the board. Instead, the CEO should understand that the role of outside legal counsel is to protect him or her and the board from the failure to make decisions properly and is unconcerned about the outcome unless it violates the law. Effective leadership by the CEO means an inclusive decision-making process where the board and its legal counsel both contribute to the process.

One of the most effective CEOs I worked with took more than seven companies public and was a member of the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway. He sarcastically referred to himself as the stupid little fat man and relied heavily on his legal counsel, whom he saw as an ally, and his board, which he had wisely populated with people smarter than himself. My advice is simple but hard to implement: CEOs should find smart independent board members and view counsel’s advice in the spirit of protecting themselves as the CEO and their board from needless litigation.

Stephen R Boatwright, a shareholder with Gallagher & Kennedy, handles public and private business mergers and acquisitions for buyers and sellers of businesses of all kinds, and advises companies in raising private equity and public financing.



CEOs’ Role Is to Focus on Doing the Right Thing – Not Being Right.

from Eileen Rogers

“Who we are is how we lead.” –Dr. Brené Brown

Self-awareness and self-reflection are key. Taking regular time for oneself to slow down, get grounded and self-reflect has a massive ROI for CEOs personally and as a leader.

The adage of “slowing down in order to speed up” has never been truer. Believing busyness is a sign of effectiveness is a big mistake, yet we see it run rampant in organizations everywhere in the US. A colleague once shared, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the gang.” The question for CEOs is, “What are you modeling for your teams?”

Self-awareness is an ongoing and important leadership journey. We often think we know how others experience us as leaders but, without data, it is just our story. CEOs should make a habit and take the time to ask others how they experienced the CEO after a meeting or presentation. Who we are is how we lead. I believe those leaders who have developed greater self-awareness have a responsibility to flex (different from being inauthentic). Leaders who know who they are can flex in those situations where a better outcome is possible — both for those they lead and those they love.

“What is your leadership style?” When I ask leaders this question, they are rarely able to clearly answer the question. For those who can give an answer, they often haven’t verified it is, indeed, how others actually experience them. 

The role for CEOs is to focus on doing the right thing — not being right. Their right thing is to identify the true challenges or problems that must be addressed, then find a way to delegate and empower others to solve the issues. CEOs should provide the resources and support so that they may find and own the solutions and path forward. The leadership model that once taught the CEO must have all the answers is dead. Today, the most valuable leaders are amazing at identifying the underlying right problem to solve and aren’t distracted by surface issues. Understanding what is truly in the way and creating a path forward allows for innovation, creativity and better outcomes. Immediate action with inaccurate problem identification wastes both time and resources.

Self-Reflection Exercise

Take deliberate and quiet time to explore your personal continuum of My Best Self – My Not Best Self. Set up side-by-side columns per the example below.

  • What describes you when you are your Best Self? (e.g., sustained focus, inspiring, engaged, powerful communicator, caring, etc.) List five or six descriptors of who you show up as when you are your best self. Take a few minutes to get quiet and grounded. Think back to a time when you were in your flow, feeling great and enjoying your role.
  • What describes you as your Not Best Self? List those, too.

We all live on both sides of this continuum and move between them continuously.

Knowing yourself allows you to be your best self more often — and in those moments that really matter. Understanding how others experience you will make you a more effective leader.

My Best Self  My Worst/Not Best Self
(I own and choose what happens)
(the world happens to me)
I am Responsive and Thoughtful I am Reactive
I do the Right Thing I am Always Right

Knowing who we are as our best and worst self is the best self-awareness possible. Self-awareness without action is not helpful. How can we show up as our best self more often for those we lead and love?

Eileen Rogers, founder of One Creative View, is a seasoned executive coach and business advisor who, as CEO, grew her own marketing and printing company into an award-winning multi-million-dollar business and, in 2020, was one of 500 people worldwide selected and trained by Dr. Brené Brown to facilitate her Dare to Lead™ courage-building program.

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