- Oct 2004
- Harvard Business Review
by Michael E. Porter, Jay W. Lorsch, & Nitin Nohria
As a newly minted CEO, you may think you finally have the power to set strategy, the authority to make things happen, and full access to the finer points of your business. But if you expect the job to be as simple as that, you’re in for an awakening. Even though you bear full responsibility for your company’s well-being, you are a few steps removed from many of the factors that drive results. You have more power than anybody else in the corporation, but you need to use it with extreme caution. In their workshops for new CEOs, held at Harvard Business School in Boston, the authors have discovered that nothing--not even running a large business within the company--fully prepares a person to be the chief executive.
The seven most common surprises are:
- You can’t run the company.
- Giving orders is very costly.
- It is hard to know what is really going on.
- You are always sending a message.
- You are not the boss.
- Pleasing shareholders is not the goal.
- You are still only human.
These surprises carry some important and subtle lessons. First, you must learn to manage organizational context rather than focus on daily operations. Second, you must recognize that your position does not confer the right to lead, nor does it guarantee the loyalty of the organization. Finally, you must remember that you are subject to a host of limitations, even though others might treat you as omnipotent. How well and how quickly you understand, accept, and confront the seven surprises will have a lot to do with your success or failure as a CEO.
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