International · 12. April 2021

Can the perfect CEO candidate have gaps and imperfections?

Foto: Agilium worldwide

In a recent survey, Agilium Worldwide asked its member firms in 27 countries and five continents about their experience with hiring CEOs.

One of the questions dealt with the candidate’s track record and looked specifically at experience gained through failure as opposed to success. It asked:  “What is the general attitude in your country towards experience gained from, for example, a new business venture that fails, a line of business that is shut down, or a launch that doesn’t succeed?” The majority responded that such experience was mostly regarded positively, even to the extent that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and with a healthy portion of humility, “significant lessons can be learnt from our mistakes”. In some countries though, where there is more failure and risk aversion, this kind of experience is almost always regarded negatively.

We tend to have a flawed perception of leaders, expecting them to be so good that nobody else can come close. Taking over as the CEO of a major company is analog to having reached the top of the corporate ladder. You should have everything figured out by then. In reality though, you will make mistakes and not always succeed. Failures are magnified by the high level of leadership and responsibility and, not only that, they are unduly dissected by the media.

Main areas where top leaders often fail include not being honest and owning their mistakes, being too patient, and not accepting opposing viewpoints. So why don’t we take examples of leadership failures and analyze the details, then use them to create leadership lessons for success in the future? The best leaders look for the lessons within their mistakes. And we ask ourselves, is the best CEO fit always someone with zero imperfections, or can it equally be someone with gaps that can be filled feasibly by other executives? In a world that isn’t perfect even superheroes can get their strategy wrong! Expecting a leader to never make a mistake is unrealistic.


Findings from a recent survey conducted by Agilium Worldwide.

Verfasst von: Dr. Matthias Rode

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