May 26 2004

In This Case, Personality Is a Skill

Business Week just ran an interesting article entitled “I’m a Bad Boss? Blame My Dad,” which unfortunately I can’t link to because Business Week online is for subscribers only. The premise of the article is that our past is always with us…that the patterns of behavior established in our home environments as children inexorably follow us to the workplace.

You may or may not agree with the premise — certainly, there is at least a little truth in it — but the article had another interesting statement:

CEOs often get hired for their skills, and fired for their personalities.

I’ve always felt that Boards and CEOs need to view “personality,” that is to say, the softer skills, as equally important to the classic skills: strategy, analytics, finance, sales, and hard-nosed execution. People who can do all of those things well but who can’t inspire others, show empathy, balance self-confidence with humility, communicate properly and clearly, and operate with a high degree of integrity, will fail as a CEO in the long term. I’m not sure how Boards and hiring committees can adequately screen for those characteristics in advance, but they certainly should!

And for the record, if I’m a bad boss, I blame myself. If I’m a good boss, I am happy to give my parents credit.