Every CEO Should Be A Chief Example Officer

Leaders are examples that are to be emulated or avoided. The danger presents itself when leaders set the wrong example.

Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo

Leaders are models. Throughout the organization, people look to the leader for indications of how they should perform and behave. Great leaders inspire higher levels of performance, productivity, and production. Misguided leaders produce confusion, burnout, and fatigue. Misguided leaders are not hard to spot. Comedian Conan O’Brien once quipped that even “fish recognize a bad leader.”

Unfortunately, there are more bad leaders in the business world than we would like to admit. Even great leaders can be bad leaders at times. Every leader wrestles with certain struggles.

Many give in to pressures and, in the end, diminish their leadership performance and their teams. In my experience and observations of numerous CEOs, I have discovered four behaviors exhibited by many leaders that, if not corrected, will ruin their people. Every leader would be wise to avoid them.


4 ways leaders ruin their teams


1. Set an example of an unbalanced life

Leaders tend to live an unbalanced life. They often eat, sleep, and drink work. In addition to working long hours, they rarely take vacations. Although they may not directly communicate this kind of behavior to their team, their people often follow their example. This kind of behavior will nearly always lead to a fatigued leader and a disengaged organization.

Burnout and poor decision-making is the result of an unbalanced life. Founders and CEOs should evaluate whether they are establishing the practices that set a bad or unrealistic precedent such as checking and responding to voicemail or email in the middle of the night (and expecting a quick reply). If changes are needed, a leader should consider what they can do to live a more balanced life and effect change from the top down.


2. Spend your resources without accountability

Leaders love shiny objects. They like to acquire things. One mistake leaders often make is spending company resources without accountability. Every person in a business needs to be accountable in how they use the resources available to them.

Difficult Business Conversations
© Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine

Coaching Question: Who reviews your business spending habits? Do you tend to squander resources on things you desire or spend them prudently on what the company needs?


3. See yourself as being above the rules

Many leaders have an attitude that the rules don’t apply to them. While they layout the processes people in the organization must follow, at times they see themselves as being above those processes. When a leader is seen ignoring guidelines or processes, others will interpret that as a license to follow suit.

Of course, leaders don’t like to be boxed in or limited, and often want to cut corners to get things done. However, every leader should be aware that they are not above the rules. Instead, they should model good behavior for every person in their business.

Coaching Question: Do you have an attitude that the rules don’t apply to you? Do you follow the processes and procedures that you expect others to follow? If so, why?


4. You treat others with disregard

Many leaders only focus on people that can help them or their cause. Thus, they only value people who can do something for them. Great leaders understand every person in their business is important and should be valued and treated with respect.

The greatest gift leaders can give to their people is time. They listen with concern. They encourage and support people on their team, with no expectations or desire to receive anything in return.


Many founders and senior-level executives are called CEOs, which normally stands for Chief Executive Officer. Maybe a better definition is Chief Example Officer.

Leaders are examples that are to be emulated or avoided. The danger presents itself when leaders set the wrong example. When an incorrect pattern is practiced long enough, it will ruin the team you are trying to lead.


Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.


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