CEO Wake Up Call: Get Out of Your Senior Executives’ Way and Lead

Is most of your success attributed to your great execution? Were you a master at getting things done? As a result of your “doing” orientation, did your company grow? 


Do you now have a problem with execution or growth?

Has your company grown too big to keep up your old habits? You might need to recognize that if you continue your old role as the “doer” instead of being the Leader of your Executive Team, your company will stop growing. Maybe you are not quite sure yet of what your new role requires, AND maybe your “doing” habit is harder to break than you thought. Now what? 

Once you learn to work with people, you can leverage that skill and continue to grow. Here are a few pointers to make the transition from “doer” to “leader.” 

What to do

  1. Take the time to design and define your new CEO role. Research successful CEOs of companies that are 2-3 times your current size. What makes them succesful? Create a chart with broad categories identifying how you want to spend your time. Next, break these categories down into actionable goals. Then break those goals down into short term tasks. 
  1. Here is a shameless, but valuable, plug: Join Vistage. Once you get involved, you will learn how to lead, not only from our expert speakers but from your peers who are (like you) CEOs, Presidents and Business Owners.
  1. Focus on making your organization healthy. Develop a plan to strengthen your Executive Team. 
  1. Expect that you will feel uncomfortable. I coach many CEOs and Senior Executives who are “doing addicts.” Transforming yourself from “doing” to “leading” (which often feels like non-doing) often causes anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. 
  1. Redefine how you measure your productivity. Change what you write on your to-do list to include items from Step 1 above. Expect that effective leading requires that 80-90% of your time will be spent in meetings. 
  1. Learn how to ask open questions. Questions are a great way to expand the thinking of your Executives. Just make sure that you ask them without any emotional load or implied solutions. Otherwise, your Executives will interpret your questions as disguised orders, which can easily feel manipulating. 

Things NOT to do 

  1. Revert back to your old expertise in times of stress. stop_signFor example, if your last job was in operations, avoid the temptation to jump in when you find an interesting project in operations that “needs” your attention. 
  1. Micromanage. “A” players need you to stay out of their way. The minute you start doing their job is the minute they decide to leave. Your micromanagement sends the message that you do not trust them to do THEIR job. And the more time you spend doing someone else’s job, the less time you are spending on your own role: CEO. If you neglect your CEO responsibilities long enough, your company will fail. 

Taking your company to the next level starts with you learning how to effectively lead.

Make it an intentional goal now, before it’s too late.

As a Master Chair for Vistage (link to in NE Ohio, Cheryl leads four local peer advisory boards, comprised of CEOs and Senior Executives from non-competing companies. She is also a Certified Enneagram Teacher in the Narrative Tradition (link to and blogs regularly at