Everyone, Including CEOs, Needs Guidance


CEOs don't have all the answers. And when asked, they will be the first to tell you. That is among the findings in a study conducted, in part, by Stanford University.

The highlights:

"It's lonely at the top" appears to be truer than ever, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford University's Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and The Miles Group. Nearly two thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, and almost half of senior executives are not receiving any either, the survey reveals.

"What's interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap," said David F. Larcker, who led the research team and is professor of accounting and Morgan Stanley Director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in a news release.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Shortage of advice at the top: Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80% of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching. "If CEOs are willing to be coached and make changes based on coaching, it stands to reason that companies and boards should make this happen," said Professor Larcker.
  • CEOs are the ones looking to be coached: When asked "Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?" 78% of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one percent said that coaching was the board chairman's idea.
  • Coaching "progress" is largely kept private: More than 60% of CEOs responded that the progress they are making in their coaching sessions is kept between themselves and their coach; only a third said that this information is shared with the board of directors. Professor Larcker adds, "Keeping the board informed of progress can improve CEO/board relations."
  • How to handle conflict ranks as highest area of concern for CEOs: When asked which is the biggest area for their own personal development, nearly 43% of CEOs rated "conflict management skills" the highest.
  • Boards eager for CEOs to improve talent development: The top two areas board directors say their CEOs need to work on are "mentoring skills/developing internal talent" and "sharing leadership/delegation skills."
  • Top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve: sharing leadership/delegation, conflict management, team building, and mentoring. Bottom of the list: motivational skills, compassion/empathy, and persuasion skills

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