Two ways to evolve: ambition or obligation

In my CEO coaching practice, I observe that there are two ways to change.

Either the CEO is sufficiently ambitious to chase that change.

Or the CEO eventually feels enough pain to become obligated to make that change.

For obvious reasons, the former is preferred as the latter usually involves an accumulation of pain or collateral damage that forces the change, which ideally is avoided.

Interestingly, probably 75% of CEO-related situations I work within have pain as the provocation. Maybe that’s just human nature? I don’t know.

The nuance here is that, generally, the CEO is aware of the need for change, so recognising the need to change isn’t the problem. Acting on it, however, seems to be.

‘Staying in the pain’ is a term I often use with CEOs: sitting in the discomfort and dealing with it, all the way through. The reasons not to are pretty obvious in that we’d all rather be doing things that we are naturally drawn to, things that we find to be fun.

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Unfortunately, that isn’t the world you as CEOs live in. External stimuli will only increase given the unpredictability of the world around us, so there will inevitably be parts of your business that you’re going to have to intervene in, regardless of your appetite to do so.

My wish for you is to get ahead of the game, recognise what is needing your attention and to dive energetically into changing what needs to be changed – driven by ambition rather than obligation.

There’s something that’s really enjoyable (and relieving) about getting a source of strain off your desk. If you feel like you need some assistance with facing a particular CEO-related challenge, then reach out to me. A conversation that brings it out into the open might be a useful first step to take:

My best,


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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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