Becoming an exceptional CEO is a game of inches. Impatience is your foe.

“The only way to become good at something is to practice the ordinary basics for an uncommon length of time. Most people get bored. They want excitement. They want something to talk about and no- one talks about the boring basics. Boredom encourages you to stop doing what you know works and do something that might work.”

I’ve had my struggles with ambition.

For those of you familiar with the Enneagram tool for developing leaders, one of the nine Enneagram types is the Competitive Achiever, which describes individuals whose core motivation is to win, or to impress.

It has its upsides in that these sorts of individuals get a lot done, and create a lot of energy that sweeps others up in their endeavours.

But there is a downside. Impatience.

Over time, I have learned to wait. To not act. To observe, and consider my plans more carefully before I pull the trigger. To not put the rush of achievement aside and find a part of me that is wiser, has a better perspective, and makes better-informed choices.

When it comes to building your CEO skill set, the truth is that it is a long journey. Not a taxing journey – quite the opposite in fact. But becoming a stand-out CEO is not an overnight thing and requires inch-gains over a long period of time to build a set of competencies that are sufficiently advanced to meet the requirements of the CEO role.

My observation is that impatience can wreck the process of becoming a higher-order CEO.

The desire to move the needle quickly by demanding instant results gets in the way of building this nuanced skill set. Impatience is an energy rush that eviscerates the care, dedication, and fine attention to detail that separates exceptional CEOs from average CEOs.


Take internal communication as an example. You can bang out an email that lays out your requirements. Or you can craft a communique that has a story to it, which references anecdotal evidence, which uses descriptive metaphors, and generously shares your own insight and struggles.

A quick email will do the job, but a communique will move people permanently by being compelling, persuasive, and enticing. The benefits of which will continue to pay dividends down the line, and likely avoid the need for more directive, and instructional communication.

You might question the ROT (Return on Time) of such efforts if you are impatient about your craft.

But if you take the long view and recognise the wisdom in the above quote, then you’ll warm to the task, you’ll do it excellently, and you’ll take one more step toward becoming a higher-order CEO, aggregating the myriad benefits along the way.

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My weekly missive, CEO Sundays, is published at 5pm every Sunday evening. The writings cover CEO topics exclusively: how-to’s; thought starters; leadership insights; reflection opportunities; research.

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