The adage, “You are the sum of your closest friends,” rings particularly true for CEOs.
Over the last 30+ years, I’ve been uniquely blessed with the opportunity to meet and learn from hundreds of CEOs. At Vistage ambitious MDs and CEOs join us because they want to connect with other like-minded executives through a trusted leadership experience that delivers professional, and personal, results.
One of the greatest predictors of a CEO’s success is their network: The people CEOs choose to surround themselves with will make a meaningful difference in how well they respond to challenges and how likely they are to succeed.
According to Dun & Bradstreet data, Vistage CEO members grew their annual revenue on average by 4.6% in 2020, while non-members with comparable small and medium sized businesses saw revenue decrease by 4.7%.
Some CEOs may consider networking a numbers game. However, the best CEOs know the key to networking is not volume, it is quality. They are focused on purposefully creating a bench of trusted advisors and a strong support system that they can tap in times of challenge, opportunity, triumph and defeat.
In my own career, I’ve found my network has enabled me to stop thinking of success as solely a means to the bottom line.
By surrounding myself with high-integrity leaders from diverse industries, I’ve learned the most effective CEOs are focused on striving to be better leaders each day. A CEO’s network should be people who inspire and challenge them to embrace change and think differently.
Below are four reasons why having a strong network is crucial to CEO success.
1. The power of perspective
A wide variety of viewpoints inspires creative thinking and reduces the likelihood of groupthink. It also prevents the all-too-common confirmation bias trap.
When a CEO approaches a situation with only their point of view, shaped by only their experiences, they can fail to consider important nuances and new information. Being surrounded by diverse perspectives from a wide variety of industries makes it easier to identify and challenge preconceived notions.
To truly open their minds to these diverse perspectives, great CEOs listen first and try to be clear about the issue without giving into the temptation of wanting to correct people or continue to add additional context.
2. See the bigger picture
A strong network can help CEOs to focus on overarching goals rather than fixating on singular issues. Leaders can get lost reactively trying to find solutions to every problem their organisation faces.
But great CEOs step back and assess the issue with peers who understand their long-term objectives. Simply speaking about a challenge out loud is often enough to stop overthinking and get back to the greater task at hand.
CEOs who successfully master working on, instead of in, the business are able to stay the course — despite the inevitable day-to-day interruptions.
3. Never stop learning
Learning from our peers is important at every stage of life. For CEOs, it serves a crucial role in improving the decision-making process, enabling them to observe and analyse what has worked — and what hasn’t worked — for those in their circle. Effective CEOs seek out lessons learned from other successful leaders. They surround themselves with talented leaders who share their values and inspire them to continue growing.
Great leaders never consider themselves “too experienced” or “too senior” for a mentor or mentee. CEOs can turn to mentors as a safe space to ask for advice and a judgment-free sounding board for ideas. It can be easier to relate to and learn from others who have been in a similar position.
Similarly, mentees can provide insight into what’s happening in the field and what the future of the industry might look like. Not to mention, world-class CEOs aren’t solely interested in solving their own decisions — they want to make a positive impact on the wider business community by helping others critically think through their challenges.
Top leaders seek to build a network that supports their personal growth and professional development. They understand the value of connection and utilize their peer group to think outside the box.
Over the course of my career, I have witnessed (and experienced) the unparalleled power of a strong network to help propel leaders — and their organisations — to success.
Vistage is the world’s leading business performance and leadership advancement organisation for small and medium sized businesses. For more information visit www.Vistage.co.uk.