CEO Fear Limits Success

A recent LA times article shared survey results that found the vast majority of CEOs are in fear of losing their jobs in 2022. In public companies CEOs get replaced every few years. Most are paid enough to not worry about it, but most also want a new CEO role to prove their worth.

Over 90% of those same survey respondents also shared that they must overhaul their corporate model within 3 years. As an example, GE is splitting into three different businesses under the leadership of a new CEO. In this case the new CEO is a very capable person who truly understands the value of people and splitting up the company is undoing the conglomeration activities that made Jack Welch famous — a smart move for the business. A huge cultural shift for the business and a huge change impacting a significant number of companies.

As CEOs sit in fear, knowing they must lead significant changes within their organizations, what can we expect from all those beneath them on the organizational chart who have to actually make the changes?

Many employees are in fear of losing their jobs, even within a company that very rarely fires anyone. That fear, coupled with CEO fear, can freeze an organization. We can expect significant disruption within companies and industries with few accomplishing any measure of success. If a company does not perform well with ambiguity, there is no chance of success.

Massive change efforts are needed, which requires different thinking and will involve more failure events than most companies are used to accepting. Those failure events are a test of leadership.

Who should the employee trust, and how much personal skin should they put in the game?

My response: Trust yourself, and put skin in the game to improve the value of your work as you make it more enjoyable. Is that a risk for the employee living paycheck to paycheck? I don’t see any more risk than that of keeping her head down doing as she is told.

Every company, private or public, must soon create a new model and develop new value and skills while marching through ambiguity. Any employee that can share an experience of dealing well with ambiguity, even in a failed effort, has value. Any employee that can share experiences of initiating improvements in his own work and the processes impacted has value. Any employee who can only share coming to work and doing as he’s told will have value to companies on a fast track to elimination; no one else.

Work is how we provide value to the world in exchange for money. The more value you bring, the more money you can obtain in exchange. Think, challenge, try, learn, fail sometimes, and keep thinking, challenging, trying and learning. There is no better way to build the value you bring, recognize and reach your personal potential, and improve everything you touch.

Just because many CEOs live in fear of losing their jobs does not mean non-C-Suiters should live the same way. Just as I am, each of you is an unfinished human with much more to offer the world by offering it to yourself.

Empathize with the CEO. You too may have felt fear of getting fired. The good news is there are so many more opportunities for you to continue your path of development and accomplishment than he is willing to consider. CEOs are not generally bad people. They are just highly visible and scrutinized. If it is a leader you want to follow, do that. If not, do something else.

And importantly, have fun along the way.

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