Do better CEO’s take a personal approach to their business’ success?

Last week, CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer announced something major on her personal Tumblr blog. This year she won’t be accepting her annual bonus or equity stock. Instead, she’ll be redistributing both work perks to her employees. Why? Because when Yahoo faced a major security breach in 2014 they didn’t disclose this to the public until 2016 and she feels her management team – under her guidance – didn’t respond quickly enough, therefore seeing herself as undeserving of the bonus.

The security breach has already cost Yahoo $350 million and there are over 40 pending lawsuits against the company so as a business, it has copped punishment. But the unique thing about Marissa’s approach is she is making it personal. She is accepting personal responsibility for what happened under her leadership. So does this approach, the personal, connected approach to leadership make a business better?

Traditionally, leadership positions like CEO roles and top level management have had a stereotype of hard-nosed, non-emotional, impersonal personality characteristics. For a long time, they were seen to drive the good cars, have a closed office door and interact only with those they deem as their peers. Most people reading this would recognize this from their early career days, we’re sure! This leadership style generates a corporate culture with a strong hierarchy and a divide. Employees don’t have any buy-in into the greater purpose or vision for the business and their work becomes uninspired. This can’t possibly cultivate any initiative amongst a team?

So does a more involved, relatable, personal approach improve performance? There’s not a lot of research to back this up. Completely conversely, a study from 2010-2016 found that CEOs of tech companies actually perform better when they have narcissistic personalities than those companies led by less-dominant, less-entitled CEOs.

However, another study of 36 companies across a range of industries found that higher-ambition CEOs assume personal responsibility when things are bad and give collective credit when they are good. These companies also had exceptional employee satisfaction and great individual leadership.

Then another study identified that humility is a major factor when creating a great culture with higher performance compared to other businesses in the same industry. Essentially, the more humble the CEO, the more engaged, hard-working, collaborative and committed the employees from top-level, mid-level managers to general staff.

While little empirical evidence can tell us about the direct correlation between bottom line performance and a more personal approach to leadership, there is a strong indication that having a more honest, humble, personal leadership style does build better businesses.


So how can you change your focus and try an approach like this?


Care about employee engagement

Engaged employees actually want to work towards the company’s goals and contribute to the vision. To create fantastic employee engagement, start by knowing your company values and by acting them out yourself. If you work with these values, the team will follow. Listen to your employees, ask for feedback on decisions, processes and your performance as an employer. Make the changes that matter most and they’ll respond to your commitment to making them happy by, in turn, working towards the company goals. 


Celebrate the wins – with the team

Make business wins a celebration of the team. If you won a major project, celebrate with everyone, not just those involved. If you have record product sales across a period, celebrate with the whole team including your manufacturing team because every contribution counts. By rewarding everyone with positivity, it inspires them to take ownership of their work – to perform better because they know it matters.


Find the time to get to know your employees

Don’t have a closed door approach to your staff. Get to know them on an individual level. Understand what their role is, what their strengths are and conversely, know their weaknesses. You’ll make better business decisions if you know your team and what makes them tick.


Don’t be afraid of trying new things and moving out of your comfort zone. Our leadership coaching and mentoring services could help you if you’d like guidance, because by making a few small changes, you can improve performance hugely.