What Makes a Great CEO?

A Wharton Business School survey of 20,000 executives* identified the following leadership qualities critical to success.  They are -- the ability to --
……..And to do them all at the same time! 

*From "Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills", by Schoemaker/Krupp/Howland, published in Harvard Business Review, January 2013.

When do our children get a chance to learn this? Developing these skills is a process.  It takes time to develop these skills.  4th-8th graders have the capability to start.  But they won't learn them unless they are given the opportunity to try it for themselves. Adopting a "kid-driven" philosophy will give kids the space and time outside of school to develop these skills. Activities such as Odyssey of the Mind and scouting allows kids to explore these skills through interactions with others. Or let kids create their own structure as they devise activities which can lead to the same self-empowering results.

Often I hear parents say, "But if I want my child to get  into medical school, he/she could be exploring the sciences and build skills now. Maybe competing in the AMC Math Contest or Science Bowl is a better way to their spend time?  After all early expertise can be built upon in the future."

My response? If your child is really fascinated by genetics and wants to enter the Google Science Fair then go for it! But often gifted kids are excited by a variety of topics and pushing the development of expertise too early can cause burnout. In some fields, Malcolm Gladwell's concept of 10,000 hours ("Outliers: The Story of Success", 2008) does have merit -- there have certainly been cases where high school prodigies have become undisputed success cases. But unless the motivation to start the 10,000 hours is kid-driven, early narrowing of focus can easily backfire later.  True passion offers efficiencies that beat out forced (read: parental controlled) focus every time.

Consider a focus on activities that will develop communication, leadership, creativity and teamwork skills instead. Frank Bruni, author of "Where You Go is Not Who You'll Be" (2015), points out that many of the CEO's of top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 do not have Ivy League pedigrees. Perhaps their less conventional or less celebrated paths allowed them get to know themselves and others, giving them a stronger ability to "create" success -- something that top grades and 2400 SAT scores do not guarantee.