Six Counts That Make For a Successful CEO

When President Reagan passed away in 2004, it was pretty clear that he had earned a lot of bipartisan affection through the years.  It had me wondering back then, “What made this man tick?”  Upon further analysis, I had determined that we inherently use six counts to get a measure of our President.  These six qualities, which I metaphorically referred to as the “six C’s of separation,” are: Character, Charisma, Confidence, Chemistry, Communicability[1], and Camera-friendliness.  I had postulated back then that these “C” notes determined whether a President can make “music to our ears” and these “C” strokes determined whether a President can paint a compelling vision of the future for us to see.  President Reagan with his perennial vision of “a shining city on a hill” had clearly scored well on all six counts across a broad spectrum of the American public.

That was then and with an allusion to politics; this is now and with a renewed reference to the business world.  The Marketing Id has surmised that the fundamental concepts ingrained in the original six-count calculus holds true in the business domain as well.  While a social enterprise might be setup in compliance with The Marketing Id’s E=MC5 theory of connectivity so that it can support Mobility, Cloud-based Communications, Cyber-security, Collaboration & Content; it nevertheless requires to be led by a CEO, who closely conforms to the six C’s of separation so that the company can be a standout success.  This qualitative differentiation assumes of course that, all things being equal, most successful CEOs perform at the top of their game when the typical quantitative factors relating to their respective companies, industries and overall market conditions are assessed.

So having made that distinction, let’s consider each of these six C’s of separation within the context of the business world.  In the corporate domain, the Character trait does not necessarily imply a moral character as much as it does the need for strong business ethics, which have become an absolute requirement in the wake of the corporate scandals of the last decade and the financial shenanigans that have plagued Wall Street in the past few years. An ethically-challenged person is not going to be a successful CEO and could, in fact, terminally harm the company or damage its reputation for an extended period of time.  The Marketing Id would like to believe that character counts more in business than it does in politics.

In a 2006 research study conducted jointly by the University of Pittsburgh and Yale University, “Does CEO charisma matter?” its authors concluded that from an objective point of view (i.e., a company’s financial performance) Charisma was not a mitigating factor when it came to CEO performance.  Nonetheless, they observed:

“Our evidence suggests that CEOs who are perceived to be more charismatic appear to be perceived as more effective. In this subjective sense, CEOs matter. However, the lack of corroborating evidence from objectively-assessed CEO performance suggests that the search for charismatic CEOs may be based more on implicit theory or halo effects than on solid evidence that charisma really does make CEOs more effective.”

From a marketing standpoint, however, perception is reality and charismatic CEOs who perform well are regarded as far more successful than their equally well-performing but non-charismatic counterparts.  The Marketing Id’s recent tribute to Steve Jobs – one of the most charismatic CEOs since the dawn of the information age – is a case in point.

Confidence is such an obviously desirable trait in most executives in the business realm that The Marketing Id simply references the famous 1984 deodorant commercial tagline, “Never let them see you sweat,” as the guiding mantra for any person who wears the CEO mantle.  This is not to suggest that the lack of visible perspiration is a standard for confidence, but CEOs need to project that image of cool without being cocky, especially in public settings.  The Marketing Id had recently blogged about The Social Enterprise and made reference to Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce.com) – here is a CEO who exuded so much confidence that it was palpable to the audience during his opening keynote address at the recent Dreamforce 2011 conference.  Confidence is a CEO quality that permeates through to customers, employees, investors, partners, shareholders, vendors, et al.  A confident CEO can make a company appear far more appealing than it might actually be.

Chemistry is something that is desired in and key to the success of every one-on-one relationship.  Not surprisingly, it is an equally important element in a one-to-many relationship, and chemistry makes those thrive as well.  In politics if a leader has chemistry, people are usually more forgiving of the leader’s other shortcomings.  The Marketing Id would argue that President Clinton’s post-impeachment rehabilitation had as much to do with his personal chemistry as it had to do with his obvious charisma.  In the business world, there are many successful CEOs who have charisma, but not many of them possess a commensurate chemistry.  For CEOs, chemistry is key in the boardroom, a “must have” with each member of the executive management team, and a tremendous value-add if CEO chemistry can filter down into the employee ranks.  While a CEO doesn’t need to be universally liked, chemistry will go a long way in keeping the “extended family” happy – which, in turn, ensures widespread commitment to the company’s long term success.  As an example, The Marketing Id would posit that it is hard to find an unhappy employee at a Starbucks.  Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, probably has great chemistry or great karma or possibly both, because Starbucks has been a wonderful American success story for well over a decade now.

Communicability, as the word has been used here, is not the way the word is traditionally used in the lexicon.  The Marketing Id has used it as a combination of two simple words that indicate an ability to communicate.  As in politics, so too in the business world, public relations and marketing communications professionals can string the right words together into the right message to the right audience at the right time and tailored for the right medium!  It cannot get more right than that; however, they still need to be delivered by the CEO.  Herein lies the rub, some CEOs just lack the necessary skills to communicate in a compelling manner.  Again, The Marketing Id’s favorite CEO for communicability was Steve Jobs – he always made his audience hang on to the end of every presentation for that “one more thing.”

The final C that separates a CEO from his peers is one that is difficult for most CEOs to master – Camera-friendliness.  A CEO may love the camera but the camera might not reciprocate that feeling.  In the rare instances that there is a positive two-way interaction, the sparks can fly.  The key is not how good a CEO looks on camera but how well a CEO emotes in front of it – it’s all about how genuine the person is and how real the passion comes across to the intended viewers.  Camera-friendliness is a literal case of the medium is the message.  Many of the previously mentioned CEOs have been pretty remarkable in front of the camera and consequently a tremendous asset to their respective companies.

The Marketing Id would like to conclude this dissertation by pointing out that President Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator.”  What made him earn that title was he possessed every one of the six C’s in good measure.  CEOs can emulate his performance in the business world by similarly honing their skills on those critical six C’s of separation! Happy Holidays, folks!


[1] Ability to communicate

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About Jack Nargundkar

High-tech marketing is always a constant compromise between logical left-brain analytics and creative right-brain activities. Jack has been living this struggle his entire working career, which he began as a software geek after graduating with a BSEE degree from Bombay University. To hone his marketing skills, Jack went on to pursue an MBA degree from Columbia Business School in New York City. Jack has since gained wide-ranging marketing experience from working at start-ups to Fortune 500 companies in the global IT, Defense & Space, and Telecommunications industries. In the past few years, Jack has focused on developing integrated marketing strategies and plans that incorporate a judicious mix of inbound and outbound marketing techniques. In addition to being a self-published author, Jack has been recognized for outstanding analytical and communications skills, authoring technical articles (self and ghosted) in numerous trade publications and editorial opinions in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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