Sunday, September 12

If you want to be a CEO, be and remain a toddler



● Toddlers are full of energy and enthusiasm. You can’t beat a toddler who is really into something and going for it 100 per cent.

● Toddlers are natural risk-takers. They throw themselves into climbing down the banisters in the boldest, bravest fashion.

● Toddlers are persistent. When told not to smear jam on a DVD, they will wait a couple of minutes and then do it again.

● Toddlers are inquisitive. They will not be fobbed off with a stock reply but go on asking “why? why? why?”

● Toddlers are creative. Their felt-tip drawings on walls and sofas betray the liveliest imagination.

● Toddlers have great interpersonal skills. They are good at thawing the hardest heart with hugs and sloppy kisses.

It is a splendid start but I feel there are more traits that the finest CEOs share with two-year-olds. They are assertive and jolly good at saying no. They are not hamstrung by inhibitions. They will march straight up to someone and say: “Who are you?” They are good at making decisions. They don’t need Malcolm Gladwell to tell them to trust their instincts.

I suspect the reason management thinkers have avoided the parallels with toddlers is it upsets their faith in the idea that leadership is an endless “journey” of improvement or “lifelong learning”. The toddler theory says the reverse. Good leaders have the right skills already, the trick is to avoid dulling their edges with too many civilised niceties picked up along the way.

There is one final way in which the toddler is a great role model for the CEO: language. Toddlers say what they mean and say it simply. They never feel tempted to dwell on paradigm shifts or value stacks or synergies.

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