Top 10 CEO Mistakes

By Jason D. Whitmer

We have a unique position and privilege of interacting with hundreds of CEO’s and senior management teams at Cleveland Research. While most are exceptional at their craft in leadership and strategic planning, there are some common mistakes that seem to keep showing up in our work that prevent companies from making it to the next level.

Top 10 Mistakes by CEO’s

  1. Compromised long-term plans to meet short-term goals
  2. Unclear or de-emphasized mission (purpose) and vision (how)
  3. Lack of transparency with board, leadership team, or shareholders
  4. Absence of humility
  5. Combatively defensive when challenged
  6. Avoids bad news or even worse puts lipstick on a pig
  7. Master of spinning numbers to tell a biased story
  8. More focused on “pretty” versus substance
  9. Limited conviction or patience
  10. Not present or visible (golf handicap may be too low)

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but a collection of these showing up at once might be a red flag that a change in leadership may be needed (regardless of bottom line performance).

What is surprising to me is that CEO’s get a long leash from their board of directors on the most important intangibles as long as the tangible numbers continue to deliver. This is quite similar to the NFL allowing bad behavior to linger as long as wins keep piling up (talent trumps character).

The problem is that this is likely not sustainable, and it’s a bubble waiting to burst. Without excellent leadership, even the most brilliant strategies in the best end markets will struggle to endure.