The Pleaser CEO

Enjoy The Work Blog post. The Pleaser CEO.

I believe a CEO’s role is threefold:

  1. Set the organizational direction.
  2. Build a great team.
  3. Secure the resources needed to win.

But not all CEOs operate with such objectives. Some want, first and foremost, to be liked. And they will (unconsciously) stop at nothing to achieve that result. They will avoid firing the popular under-performer or killing a long-time product line. They will delay major organizational change and adhere to the status quo even as evidence mounts to the contrary. They will follow this self-destructive path for one reason — because change upsets people. And the Pleaser CEO never wants to upset anyone.

If you’re that person, you have work to do. You must study yourself. Maybe you hire a psychologist or dive into some new books. Whatever it takes to find new ways to become the best version of yourself.

If you’re unsure if you’re a Pleaser CEO, please read on. These are the some traits all Pleaser CEOs have in common.

(a) You’re more concerned with keeping the peace than sharing your opinion.

Great decisions come from a great debate. Your job is to foster that debate, hear all sides, and then make a call. You’re the CEO. You have the entire picture. You know the market, your technology, and the capabilities of the team. You have opinions. Not taking sides and holding back unpopular ideas will serve only to dilute the quality of the debate. By holding back, you are doing a disservice to the very people whose opinions you hold so dear.

(b) You’re not ok with others being upset. (and you try and fix them)

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” ~ Peter Drucker

Hard decisions are hard because there is disagreement. Laying off people, changing markets, killing a product line, modifying the org chart, or hiring a new executive all have ramifications. Here is the secret though. No matter what you chose, someone may be upset. If utilitarian ethics don’t guide your decisions, you’re in the wrong job.

Your job is to lead. That means asking others to do things, assigning responsibilities, and evaluating performance. If you find yourself apologizing each and every time you delegate or check-in, you may want to explore why. My guess is that low self-esteem is the culprit.

(d) You can’t say no and it means you’re likely overwhelmed.

Classic Pleaser CEO behavior — you say ‘yes’ to every ask of you, and you enable the under-performers around you. People take advantage of you — they fail to live up to their responsibilities and instead of holding them accountable, you make excuses and fill in the gaps yourself. You believe it’s too important not to threaten the (illusion of a) relationship than authentically demand a higher level of output. The result? You try to do everything for everyone, and you end up letting down both the team and yourself.

(e) You’re an accomplished chameleon.

Drop the Pleaser CEO into any environment, and she/he blends in like an intelligence operative. It’s a remarkable social and professional skill. However, if you’re always blending into your environment, who are you but a mirror for those around you? Leaders lead, followers, follow, and mirrors do neither. They simply hide.

(f) You need others to tell you you’re doing a good job.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown…”

The CEO is a terribly lonely job. You’re the boss, so there is no one to provide a pat on the back. If you find yourself hunting for gratitude or appreciation, there is something wrong. Your feedback loop is your financial statement. Your job is to hit numbers. How are revenues? How are profits? How is customer churn? How is employee turnover? That is the only feedback that matters.

— Thank you, @AmyMorinLCSW, for the inspiration from your article, 10 Signs You’re a People-Pleaser.

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