CEOs creative, but chaotic

Feb 16 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

What type of people make it to be a CEO? According to new research, creativity is the single trait that most distinguishes CEOs from the rest. But don't expect them to be organised, too – they pay other people to do that for them.

A study by PsyMax Solutions, a human capital assessment firm based in Cleveland, suggests that high creativity - which includes innovativeness and risk-taking – is the work style behaviour that most distinguishes today's presidents and chief executive officers.

The firm analysed the behavioural profiles of more than 240 presidents, CEOs and chief operating officers from its database of work style profiles of 11, 000 executives, managers and staff-level employees.

"CEOs diverge from 'normal' successful executives in various ways, creativity being the most important," said Dr Wayne Nemeroff, PsyMax Solutions CEO.

"CEOs also tend to score well above average in their ability to advocate and sell ideas and in tough-mindedness, their resilience in the face of criticism."

The findings echo those of a study published last year which found that CEOs are attracted to the job by the opportunity for complex problem-solving, the ability to have a personal impact on the business and satisfaction of seeing their ideas implemented.

But whether or not some of these traits are desirable is another question. Indeed while being ambitious, assertive and authoritative might win a CEO plaudits from their shareholders, they are also the most likely character traits to hold a business back.

Research business development consultants Optima has found that as far as employees are concerned, they would much prefer their leaders to be people who are willing to nurture, empower and support them, and who are willing to share knowledge and delegate tasks.

Company heads are decidedly less organised than their subordinates
In others words, businesses do better with managers and bosses who are willing to listen to them and engage in an open and honest dialogue.

Meanwhile, in at least one respect, the PsyMax study found that CEOs lag considerably behind the norm.

"According to our findings, company heads are decidedly less organised than their subordinates," noted Dr Nemeroff

"While CEOs may excel at addressing issues in an innovative, resourceful and imaginative way, they probably need a lot of support from others on their team to execute what needs to be done."

Senior executives below C-level often have work styles that complement the CEO's, Nemeroff explained.

"Unlike their CEO, managers at the next level may be more collaborative or orderly. The wise CEO would be sure to be surrounded by people with such essential work style behaviours and skills."

Work style assessment instruments are increasingly being used by organizations to make more informed hiring decisions and reduce employee turnover, said Nemeroff. "It's to the applicant's advantage as well as the employer's to get as good a fit as possible when filling a particular opening."