Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity. One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall.
The Power Trip, Wall Street Journal – August 14, 2010
And that’s the problem. “New technological directions” are often a landmine waiting for the CEO’s foot. Here’s the crazy part – CEOs get crazy in No Man’s Land. It’s a time of confusion and distraction, when the company is too big to be small and too small to be big. After months, perhaps years of solid growth the company realizes they’re not quite sure why they’re in business. The value proposition becomes ambiguous at best and the economic model, or lack there-of, does not enable the company to make money at higher volumes. So what does the CEO do? He or she gets bored with the details and starts innovating in a different direction.
This is red line danger zone for corporate direction and strategy. The idea that launched the business, that “thing” that the company did best to this point, starts to lose it’s appeal to the CEO. In typical ADD (or ADHD) fashion the boss believes the best course of action is to get creative and do something different. Landmine, three o’clock! If you don’t believe me, listen to my friend Bill Wydra, CEO of Ash-Tec Technologies.
One of the reasons No Man’s Land claims so many ventures is the loss of the CEO’s tenacious focus. Instead of a new idea, the leadership team should re-align on the value proposition and then refresh the economic model to scale the value proposition. This “re-focus” increases the probability that the company will survive No Man’s Land and thrive in more profitable revenue zones.
If you are a CEO and you’re becoming bored with your company’s direction, step back and re-focus. Don’t let the illusion of past or present growth blind you to the reality of No Man’s Land. Align the team on your value proposition and make the appropriate investments to maintain momentum and survive your growing pains.
If you need a hobby, try P90X – you’ll be too tired to be bored.