Regardless of the size of the organization, it takes a strong personality to be a business leader or CEO. Strong personalities have strong likes and dislikes.
There are several things that top-level leaders universally dislike. I’ll even go so far to say there are some things they universally hate.
1. Lack of control.
Of the six CEOs I’ve directly reported to, there was universal disdain among them regarding things beyond their control that affected their respective businesses.
The types of things that I saw get under the skin of CEOs were the impact of over-reaching regulatory agencies, an adversarial organized workforce, unfair competition’ unflattering media coverage and aggressive taxation policies, to name a few. These matters are usually beyond the CEO’s own influence and often hinder the leader’s direction for the enterprise. Some CEOs have tried to impose their will by lobbying lawmakers; trying to weaken or bust unions or seeking relief from opposition in the courts. Sometimes those activities work, sometimes they don’t.
Top executives are accustomed to controlling large portions of their business environment and circumstances. They typically set the vision, objectives and goals for the organization.
If you support a top executive, it’s important to understand their control issues. The CEO requires strong counsel and unvarnished information to help them make the best decisions regarding the appropriate level of response to the areas and stakeholders beyond the CEO’s purview.
This issue has to deal with managing expectations. The CEO is anticipating one type of outcome and another occurs. Or the top leader is blindsided from an foreseen threat or event.
Those who support the senior executive can better manage expectations by a steady communication cadence of project status updates, progress reports on deliverables and “bad news” as soon as possible. The old adage that “bad news doesn’t improve with age” is particularly helpful when it runs counter to the CEOs expectations.
Additionally, nobody can predict or identify every threat, but it’s incumbent on the CEO’s down line to boundary span the competitive, legal and regulatory horizons for possible issues, while scenario planning to address those issues as quickly as possible.
This one is self-explanatory. Every CEO I’ve worked with viewed deception in any form amongst their direct reports as a betrayal of themselves and the organization.
There might be chief executives who turn a blind eye to lying and lapses of integrity but I can’t remember a single instance where a direct report of the CEO kept their job after deliberate deceit came to light.
While second chances are great, it’s tough to regain the CEO’s trust after a fraudulent falling out.
When things go badly, the last thing the CEO wants to deal with is finger pointing or the blame game amongst their staff. The leader wants answers or solutions to resolve the situation and prevent it from happening again.
I recall one meeting where a CEO with a penchant for home spun witticims loudly asserted in his Kentucky drawl to his bickering executive staff,“That’s enough cursin’ the darkness! I need someone who’s gonna light a candle for Pete’s sake!”
I considered adding "mistakes" or “incompetence” as additional listings of things CEO’s can’t stand. However, I’ve witnessed several instances where CEOs were very forgiving of honest missteps. The chief executives I know often used those situations as developmental opportunities for junior executives to take appropriate corrective measures.
This list is obviously not exhaustive but it is based on real-world observations of real people in the CEO role. And while “hate” is a strong word, I can assure you that the strong CEOs I had the prvilege to work with had strong reactions to these listings.