Someone suggested I expand on one of my posts from earlier this week (“The grit of a CEO“). Since I wax verbose if I don’t focus on being brief, I’ll to distill my thoughts into a few concise points.
The first of Horowitz’s ideas that stuck with me is that you can’t put the typical CEO into a cookie-cutter mold: “It generally takes years for a founder to develop the CEO skill set and it is usually extremely difficult for me to tell whether or not she will make it.” The nature vs. nurture argument is jaded, but only because it’s ceaselessly relevant. In an American environment that, compared to the rest of the world, focuses disproportionately on innate intelligence, it’s nice to hear an argument that high achievers can be not only born, but made.
Students in particular can relate to another of Horowitz’s points: “Be direct, but not mean.” Like most of us, I don’t like to be told I’m wrong. But, for me at least, it’s even more frustrating to be criticized in an indirect, roundabout way. I’d much rather learn what I did wrong and start improving right away.
Horowitz also suggests that CEOs give “high-frequency feedback”. He argues that giving honest feedback more often will let employees stop thinking about the fact they’re being critiqued and start focusing on the feedback itself. This goes for any environment: people who aren’t used to receiving frank but constructive criticism might be startled the first time they receive it. But they’ll appreciate the process once it becomes consistent.
While Horowitz applies this wisdom specifically to CEOs, he really gives more of a general lesson in motivational leadership: getting people to perform at the highest level possible. Everyone – CEOs, parents, teachers, and everyone in-between – would do well to listen.