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Why You Should Look at the CEO Before Taking a Job

When considering a job offer and your future within an organization, it's worth bearing in mind the culture fostered by the person at the helm. Here are eight negative CEO traits to watch for before accepting.
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why you should look at the ceo before taking a job

One mistake many job applicants make when considering a job offer is focusing on possible advancement, benefits, working conditions, and pay while forgetting a crucial factor. Those components play a role in making a job decision—but taken together, they pale in comparison to scrutinizing the one person perched on the top rung of the ladder: the CEO, president or owner.

No matter how near or far you may end up from the corner office, it is the decision-maker leading the company that affects your destiny.

This may seem like a questionable exercise when millions of workers are unemployed or underemployed. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the culture fostered by a leader can make a difference when it comes to your future, no matter where you are on the company hierarchy. Understanding the dynamics of the corner office will help ensure you're better prepared to manage your future in the job.

Here are eight negative CEO traits to watch for:

1) Rearview mirror thinker. Looking to the past as a guide to the future may seem incomprehensible given where life and the economy are today. Yet, there are those who view their role from a rearview mirror, clinging to past successes when challenges were more manageable.

2) Talks one way, acts another. There are those who use all the right words, such as the ones you want to hear when you're looking for a job. This makes it easy to be tripped up since the individual's actions go in another direction, telling a different story.

3) Always suspicious. You are left walking on eggshells, fearful, stressed, and worried you will say or do something that will set off the executive's paranoia. Such conditions stifle creativity, restrain open and honest discussion, and inhibit a collegial environment.

4) Stubbornly confident. Organizations are often attracted to a confident leader, but some exude too much confidence. In times of crisis, that doesn't work. Keeping overconfidence controlled can be done by repeatedly asking the question, “What do you think?" says Leon Eisenstaedt in a Financial Poise blog post.

5) All-knowing guide. Watch for some at the top who act as if having all the answers is the way to demonstrate their competence. When making appropriate decisions depends on data support, they lean on “going with their gut." Former professional poker player Annie Duke says in a Knowledge@Wharton conversation, “Your gut is not a decision tool. It's not reliable, no matter how reliable you think it is."

6) Indecisive decision-maker. This executive's indecisiveness drives everyone nuts. It isn't until circumstances force the issue that decisions are made, leaving everyone scrambling to get the job done. The pattern is permanent and people eventually leave.

7) Phony optimism. There are two options when something goes wrong: be transparent or cover it up. The former works, while the latter doesn't. Even so, some leaders put a happy face on anything they perceive to be negative or troublesome and they do it for one reason—they don't believe people can pull together and solve problems in crises. Rather than allaying fears, fake optimism only creates distrust, confusion and low morale.

8) Self-serving self-view. Some top executives believe their position requires exaggerating their expertise, knowledge and skills while undervaluing those same assets in people around them. These people also have difficulty retaining talented employees.

All of this begs the question, “What should you be looking for in a CEO?"

If you're diligent or lucky, you may find a leader whose attitude and ideas will advance and grow your career. While no profile of such a CEO is ever final or complete, here are some favorable attributes to look for:

  • Has a nurturing and forward-thinking attitude.
  • Takes others and their ideas seriously.
  • Views employees, customers, suppliers and the larger community as among the company's stakeholders.
  • Possesses an inquiring mind, asks questions and listens intently.
  • Values diverse views and understands improvement comes from dialogue.

Walt Rakowich, CEO of Prologis, describes in a Harvard Business Review article a meeting with his team in 2008 when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. He asked his team for their help. Their response enabled the company to weather the storm and survive the Great Recession.

Rakowich may be the type of CEO worth looking for. If you find one who comes close, take the job.

John Graham is marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer at GrahamComm. He is also the creator of “Magnet Marketing," and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas." 

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Thursday, December 3, 2020
Recruiting, Hiring & Training