What are you CEO’ing for?

I was met with a confronting question recently that stayed with me.

What am I living for?

It’s a complex question that has two parts:

  1. What is the purpose that underpins my life?
  2. What experiences do I want to infuse into my life?

The question is confronting because it challenges the clarity of my intention. The value I’ve taken from pondering the question has been to pull myself out of the week-after-week repetition of life and to think hard about how I’m using my time on earth (which, interestingly is only 4,500 weeks – a number that felt surprisingly low at first blush).

There is a direct overlap with those occupying the CEO role that includes the additional dimension of how you are leading your business and how you are deploying the collective energy that your business houses.

Q: What are you CEO’ing for?

The two-part question could be translated for a CEO as such:

  1. How is the business you are leading becoming/remaining relevant?
  2. What experiences do you personally want from your CEO role?

Part 1 is better dealt with in the public domain than Part 2 due to ‘Purpose’ being an increasingly well-documented term (you can read up more on Relevance here), so I’ll spend more time on Part 2.

There is no single approach to being a CEO. The composition of the role is personal and contextual, which gives a CEO agency in shaping how they occupy a role. Some CEOs are sales-focused, some are culture-focused, some are scale-focused, some are change-welcoming, and some are change-resistant. There are an infinite number of permutations as to how a CEO role is shaped. 

Most CEOs I’ve worked with don’t fully appreciate the agency they have to shape their role, resulting in an amorphous, ballooning role that becomes more indistinct and overwhelming over time. 

Eventually, the incumbent CEO becomes broken or dulled, which, given how the quality of the CEO determines the performance of a business, has highly detrimental consequences for the business and all the people within it. 

Then along comes the above question to wrestle CEOs out of their routine …

  • Do you feel ‘alive’ in your work?
  • Is your work experience curated?
  • Do you feel your business is contributing positively to the world?
  • Is the soul of your business in a healthy place?
  • Are you using your talents to their fullest extent?
  • Are parts of your role unsuited to you and draining your energy?

These confronting questions are easier to avoid than to ‘live with’, but the prize for forming excellent answers is significant. 

Those answers are potentially life-changing. 

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