Are You Making this MAJOR (and Common) CEO Mistake?

By: Erin Rocchio, MSOD

You know that executive leadership matters. You know you need smart, agile, emotionally mature leaders to guide your organization, groom your best and brightest, and produce outstanding results. And you know that leadership quality impacts your bottom line. Why, then, do so many CEOs delegate the very lifeblood of their organization - the quality of top leadership talent - to someone else?

Traditional business theory taught us to believe that leader development, coaching, nurturing, and mentoring was not the CEO’s job. It belonged to Human Resources, the immediate supervisor, an executive coach, or in some cases, to no one at all (the excuse, “we need to hit the right revenue target first” comes to mind). Leader quality certainly was not the CEO’s responsibility. The CEO's job was to grow the bottom line and create results, period.

Not anymore. That thinking is both flawed and dangerous. In today's competitive landscape, leader development (and its impact on financial performance) is a CEO-level responsibility and strategic priority. Let me ask:

  • Are you a CEO who has limited insight into the work your executives are doing to drive the culture and performance of your organization?
  • Are you a CEO who wants to improve the performance of your executive team, but you are daunted thinking about how?
  • Are you a CEO who struggles (or avoids) holding your senior executives accountable for driving strategy, demonstrating company values, and/or building an organization that generates long-term value?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, where do even you begin?

First, measure the right stuff and do it often. A half-hearted 360° assessment delivered by an HR analyst once, then filed in the back of a desk drawer, will do little to help you understand your most important priorities related to your senior team. Find a 360° tool that is comprehensive, consistent, and clear; one that balances performance drivers with emotional intelligence (like this).

Second, embed senior leader development into every system, process, and experience. YOU own the systematic assessment and development of your senior executives, yourself included, so that you always have an accurate pulse of how your most critical investment is paying off. Build a system, cultural norms, and communication plans to ensure this doesn’t become another forgotten, or worse, failed initiative.

Third, make decisions confidently around who, how, and when to groom your high potential executives. Or, weed them out swiftly. They’re either on their way up, or on their way out.  Also, be transparent with your organization about your own 360° results. Share openly what you and your executive team are doing to be better. There is nothing more frustrating than providing feedback that mysteriously falls into a black hole. Be courageous! Share your strengths, weaknesses, and development goals to improve who you are as a leader and as a human being. Require every executive to do the same.

Watch levels of trust, respect, and hope build when you do what you say you will around performance. Watch what happens when you invest your time and energy to make sure your executive leaders are better for your people. And watch the impact that measuring leadership quality has on your bottom line.


Most organizations do not have internal capability to act on leader quality well or quickly. If you are looking for a partner with deep integrity and experience, with strategic insight and world-class support, visit us at: fmgleading.com.