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Solving Daily Leadership Challenges


Bain and Company published “Resolving the CEOs Dilemma” focused on the leadership challenges CEOs face as they guide the growth of private for-profit companies.

This article is a great resource for CEOs leading all kinds of organizations, especially CEOs leading nonprofit organizations.

Top 3 Leadership Challenges:

The article describes CEO’s three biggest leadership challenges.

They include:

1)  Surviving the job (40% leave in less than two years).

2) Building business and shareholder value.

3) Leaving a legacy to be proud of.

In leading organizations CEOs interviewed by Bain complained of:

  • Too many demands on their time.
  • Difficulty building the right team and getting them moving in the same direction.
  • Dealing with multiple constituencies.

Sound familiar?  Let’s explore how you might overcome these challenges.  Bain shows us clues in the actions of others.

Bain surveyed a group of highly effectively CEOs to discover how they overcome these leadership challenges.  Here’s what they found in their leadership actions:

How successful CEOS organize their time:

First, successful CEOs protect their time shamelessly and with discipline. 

They focus exclusively on their agenda, which is largely a focus on #s 2 and 3 above.

How do they do this?  They follow the 60/40% rule.

Successful CEOs focus 60% of their time on mandatory tasks.  This includes devising a strategy to hire the best talent.  It is planning for board meetings.  Of course, CEOs address audits and auditors’ concerns.  They answer team questions.

CEOs spend 40% of their time on growing the business and creating value.  They make space to think creatively, to ponder deeper questions and create new partnerships and alliances.  They make space to see opportunity.

Although nonprofit organizations do not report the shareholders looking for enhanced value as public companies do, developing and implementing sustainable business models that create measurable value for the broader community is absolutely key to long-term success.  Those who do, will leave an incredible legacy behind.

In summary, successful CEOs are very careful with time.  They deeply respect it.

How Successful CEOs work with internal and external leadership challenges:

Second, successful CEOs build teams fast. 

Finance and Human Resource Directors are most important leadership roles to fill first.

Often CEOs yearned for better ways to hire people beyond old-fashioned interviews— with good reason!  (There are some very specific tools to help with that.)

Third, CEOs set the tone and business rhythm for the company.

Real world CEOs talk about how to do this.

Fourth, successful CEOs align their organization around simplifying themes, such as a clear vision and outcomes.

Finally, CEOs align constituencies behind their objectives. 

In other words, they lead.  They are not led by their constituencies – they find the place where the CEO’s and the constituency’s desires and goals overlap.

Bain has a great interactive graphic that summarizes how CEO’s overcome these challenges.   Additionally, when you scroll over different parts of the graphic, it gives leaders important questions to consider with each challenge – worth a look.

How Do you Overcome Leadership Challenges?

Want to overcome your own CEO leadership dilemma or know a nonprofit leader who might?  There is an opportunity on July 27th in Durham, NC to do just that.  Check out Getting Out of Your Own Way:  A Leadership Intensive for Nonprofit Executives Ready To Expand Growth and Impact.

Tell us, how do you overcome these challenges now?  Which are your biggest challenges?  Share in the comments below.

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