What does a CEO look like?

I had lunch with a friend the other day, and he was questioning why there were so few young leaders in top positions – he was tired of seeing mostly 50+ men in executive positions. He wanted more young people. I guess he was saying that because he is relatively young himself. I on the other hand, am questioning the fact that there are, still, so few women in top leadership positions. Is it because we are used to a certain stereotype? Is it because we are lacking role models, or is it because we are just following the same old pattern, not even thinking about how it could be different? Maybe we are so used to looking to what it used to be in the past, that we are not even considering a different path for the future.

Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as the first female prime minister in Norway in 1981. She was one of the first female prime ministers in the world, and although the Norwegian people were proud to have elected a competent candidate for the job, they were still skeptical. People were interviewed on the street, and many did not really believe that a woman could do this job. As a man so eloquently put it; men have much better experience being prime minister, because this job has always been done by a man. . . So then – if everybody is always looking to the past, how can we break this pattern, and set a new future?

Somebody has to be the first – someone has to be the change, no matter what it is. If not, we will always be looking to, and repeating the patterns of the past.

Fear of the future and new thinking has always been a challenge for most people. We prefer to stay safe in our comfort zone, as change is something that our brains instinctively do not like. This is why it is so hard for people to change a pattern like smoking or dieting, (these are not small things for most people, these are big) – we have a hard time breaking the old routine.

Back to leadership: to change the way we look at top executive positions, we have to be open to looking to the future. We can no longer ask ourselves how these roles have traditionally been filled, but instead, how can they be in the future; what skills do we need, what experience do we need and what personality traits do we need?

I believe companies, searching for an executive, are not getting the right help at most executive search organizations either. A friend of mine told me that their company was looking for a CEO in their company and had been very specific with the search agency about what they were looking for; they wanted somebody younger than forty and preferably a woman. The agency came back with a list of 21 men, all over 55. When asked why, they simply replied; this list of people were the only ones in the market that were qualified enough for the job. No women or young people “out there” could do the job. This shows that even companies that are paid to find qualified executives have a limited view, and network, of candidates outside the traditional box. Are we really still at a point where we think about leaders as men? If we continue having the same type of leaders, how are companies going to make a difference in this changing world, and be able to stand out? How are we going to break the norms if we only follow the same old stereotypes?

To break the cycle, we need more visible role models; we need to not look to the past, but to the future. If your dream is to become a CEO, don’t let the stereo type guide you, or scare you off – think about being the one that breaks the cycle and sets a new standard. Be the role model yourself, and you might inspire a new generation of leaders.

Be yourself, and be what you believe in. Be the future.

What defines a great manager?

Most employees want to work in a place where they can make an impact and a difference, and where their input is being recognized. Most people also want to be recognized not only for the work they do, but for the person they are. It is the leader/managers role to make this possible.

As we spend so much time at work, and because we are dependent on feeling that we are valuable to the company we work for, good management is incredibly important. Managers can have a very positive influence, and bring out the best in us every day, but they can also prevent us from unleashing our full potential. Surveys reveal that 70% of employees quit because of a bad manager.

At the end of the day, management is all about being able “see” people. The job of a manager is to give others the opportunity to perform well, and to make sure that everyone on the team, or in the organization, is moving in the same direction. And of course, it is the managers role to set that direction. Good managers should show their employees that every effort is important, and that every person counts. Remember that you are not only the leader of the company, but for the people that work there.

Much has been said about what defines a good manager, and here are my top 10 points/characteristics:

  1. They care about their employees – not “sort of”, but genuinely. They know what their employees are passionate about, and what they are good at.
  2. You can trust them. This means that if a manager says that he/she will do something, you can trust them on it.
  3. They want you, as an employee, to succeed, and they help you to do so. They know your strengths and weaknesses, and they know how to build on your strengths, so that you can perform at your very best.
  4. They don’t micro-manage. They trust you to do your job, and only get involved if they can see that you’re heading in the totally wrong direction, or if you ask for their input. They trust their employees
  5. They praise their employees and thank them for their input – large or small.
  6. They are honest. And sometimes they are so honest that you wish they weren’t quite so honest. But they say the things they say because they want to be clear, so that you can become a better version of yourself.
  7. They are clear and transparent in their communication, and make sure to explain anything that is unclear quickly and without compromising their integrity. They do not allow room for uncertainty in their communication.
  8. They are fair and understand that different people need to be treated differently, but that the same situations must be handled in the same way.
  9. They are strict – when they need to be. They know their employees. And they actually care.
  10. They show empathy. Good managers understand that most people are different, and that they have different needs and passions. They can empathize with their employees’ situations and contribute to making every one of their employees even better.

Very few people are “born” managers – most need to learn the skill and build up experience. However, most people who want to become a good or a better manager can do so, with the right learning and training.

Good management and leadership is way too important for the individual employee – and for the company – to be left to chance. Take responsibility for your management skills, your team will thank you for it. After all; you are responsible for people and your job is to be able to achieve results through your team. Your employees want you to be the best manager for them, so that they can be the best team for you – so take their advice and seek out to be the best manager that you can be.

And last: make sure to hire people who are smarter than you. Hire people who are better than you, who have more knowledge than you, and that love to do what you hate to do.


A leader without followers is just a person taking a walk” – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, By John C. Maxwell

Choose your attitude

You can influence your own working day.

We spend a lot of our time at work. Most of us want to enjoy our time here, and contribute with positive impact on our working day. Most people also want a high degree of impact on how we spend our own time and carry out our own tasks. There is a huge difference between being told to work overtime, – and offering to work overtime. When we are given a framework, most of us want as much freedom as possible within this framework. According to Annicken R. Day, the founder and head of Corporate Spring, we primarily want five things:

  1. We want to do things that matter
  2. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves
  3. We want the power to influence
  4. We want to make a difference
  5. We want to learn, – and we want to develop

Many of these points are fundamental for improving our working day – and in turn fundamental for impacting our performance. Wherever we feel that we are making a contribution and being recognized – that is when we will flourish and become even better.

There is another important aspect to consider: how we ourselves behave. We have a responsibility as colleagues and employees to make our working day the best day possible. We have the power to choose what kind of a day we are going to have, and how we behave in relation to our colleagues and customers.

The book “FISH” by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen, is a must read for everybody who want to understand how your own attitude affect your workday, and how to “boost morale and improve results”. The book is an easy to read story and provides specific tips and hints about what you can do. The book concludes with stories from real life, and input from people who have changed their lives by thinking about the essence of the book and the lessons it teaches. The book is a management manual for everyone to read – managers and employees alike, and it is highly recommended for all levels in an organization. This is a good way to agree on certain rules of conduct and behavior internally, and that everybody agrees on. This subsequently becomes the company’s culture and attitude, and everyone has been involved in determining what the culture should be.

Here is what the people in the book agreed on for their culture:

Our workplace. As you enter this place of work, please choose to make today a great day. Your colleagues, customers, team members, and you yourself will be thankful. Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be there when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this sure-fire remedy: find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear – and make their day.

I encourage everyone to “choose your attitude” every day, before walking in the front door at work.

“Choose to make today a great day”!