115. Bart Jackson on How to Be CEO

E4B Podcast Cover for Episode #115 Featuring Bart Jackson

Bart Jackson is a CEO, and has studied the job and the people in it via thousands of survey responses and hundreds of interviews and multiple collaborations all over the world over many years. He’s distilled his findings in two books, The Art Of The CEO and CEO Of Yourself, as well as his radio show The Art Of The CEO.

From all of this data, processed via his empathic diagnosis, Bart takes two perspectives: the job and the person in it.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The CEO job threatens to take more of one individual’s time than is available. The firm’s value proposition guides the CEO to the right priorities and allocation of personal resources.

How do CEOs organize their time among the multiple priorities of the job? The answer is: by embedding the value proposition of the firm into their mind. With a clear view of the customer and of the customer service mission of the firm, every competing priority can be ordered. The CEO can design a framework for every day, week, month and year. They can continuously review their mission and goals and assess their own contribution, and the stamp they are putting on the firm, through the value proposition lens.

The set of priorities importantly includes “time to think,” both on your own and with others.

Leadership style can be adapted to each individual’s strengths.

Bart asks, “Are you a king or a prime minister?” Are you the one who inspires your team to demanding feats of achievement, or the one who provides them with the tools to encourage the emergence of their own capacities? Or both? When the CEO is totally devoted to the firm’s mission, this devotion becomes the lens through which others’ efforts will be focused. No team member will withhold effort when the purpose and mission are clear and shared. Leadership style is devotion to mission.

Communication is a key CEO tool, and there are many ways to accomplish great communication.

Devotion to the mission requires clear communication of that mission to employees. There is no one way for the CEO to communicate. Bart told the story of one CEO who committed to travel to meet every one of his employees in small and large groups, armed with a whiteboard and a personal presentation. Communication is inclusive — address by name all the people who are going to be involved in the mission, approach all the departments, inventory all the internal strengths available as resources, and describe all the innovations that will open up new ways to leverage those strengths.

CEOs make communication a four-dimensional flow.

Communication does not just flow in one direction to the employees. It must travel in two directions, so that the CEO can receive a continuous flow of ideas and information from the frontiers of the company. Bart talked about 4 dimensions: horizontal across the company from the center to the edge and back, through every department; vertical from top management to front line employee and back; then the third dimension of reaching outside the company box to vendors and suppliers and other external knowledgeable sources; and the time dimension of identifying ideas early, evaluating them, giving them a chance to bloom and thrive and the enthusiastic energy to move them along quickly.

CEOs press knowledge into action.

In Austrian theory, entrepreneurship is a knowledge process. Bart calls it “pressing knowledge into action”. The information flow can be overwhelming, and the CEO manages it by taking action more than by analyzing. The entrepreneurial instinct to “just do it” is valid for CEOs of any size undertaking. Once there is enough information to support an action, take that action. Then all new information can be channeled into furthering the action, adjusting or correcting, or even terminating it in favor of a new and more preferred action. Knowledge is not for its own sake, it’s for the sake of action.

The CEO is an incessant questioner and interviewer, ascertaining the knowledge that is available for action.

CEOs don’t create a company culture. It emerges.

Bart defines culture as how individuals feel when they are at work for the firm, and how they behave as a consequence. CEOs can try to create an atmosphere in which more desired feelings and behavior are nurtured, but they can’t control or guarantee it.

The best tool for the creation of such an atmosphere is concern for each individual. Respect is not enough. Genuine concern will motivate people to put their shoulder to the wheel at all times.

Hiring becomes a core CEO skill.

Assembling the best team is a most difficult challenge. It’s hard to hire the right individual for every position, but hiring is a skill that a CEO can actively cultivate in order to develop greater mastery over time. CEOs train themselves to hire well.

One key to success, according to Bart, is not to fill a slot but to look for a person. Identify character, look for intellectual curiosity, look for people of high merit who can potentially fill many slots on the organization chart. Utilize the pursuit of diversity to investigate a broader pool of human resources from which to draw.

Great CEOs build their personal brand in order to achieve company goals. They make individuality the whole point.

Bart approaches the process of building a personal brand in the same way as he would approach building a product or service or corporate brand. Start with the customer. A corporate brand, he says, is built in the production and service departments, not in the PR and marketing departments.

For personal branding, therefore, look to the resources you have for production. What’s in your personal “warehouse”? Great CEOs inventory their personal strengths and interests. They listen to what people praise them for and thank them for and find their strengths in that data.

Then they examine their own principles. What do they truly believe in? Bart recommends we write down our own inventory of strengths and interests and principles

In the end, he says, individuality is the whole point. Each of us is a marvelous person. We’ve got to be able to see that. Being the CEO of yourself opens up the pathway to doing the best possible job of CEO of your firm.

Additional Resources

“CEO: The Position and the Person” (PDF): Download PDF

The Art Of The CEOBuy On Amazon

CEO Of YourselfBuy on Amazon

The Art Of The CEO RadioView Site