This article was originally published by The Holmes Report here.

Transforming the CEO

WASHINGTON, DC — Public relations people need to actively challenge CEOs if they hope to deliver value to their clients, according to ghSMART partner Elena Botelho, who kicked off Day One of PRovoke19 by outlining how ordinary people can be transformed into world-class leaders.

Botelho made the comments during a conversation with H+K Strategies CEO AnnaMaria DeSalva, which also explored ghSMART’s research into the factors that underpin CEO success.

“The more powerful you become, the more people you have that are just eager to execute for you,” said Botelho. “Most people engage with a CEO at the level of the task. Very few people engage with a CEO at the level of intent.”

Accordingly, continued Botelho, her “silver bullet” is for comms advisors to “engage with the CEO at the level of intent, not the level of task, and don’t be afraid to challenge them.”

“It will make you an absolutely standout advisor to your CEO,” she noted.

Botelho’s research also found a significant disconnect between the factors that help executives get the top job, and the reasons that underpin CEO success. “Often what makes one look the part and what leads you to deliver results aren’t the same thing,” she said of the research, which spent 25 years analyzing more than 18,000 leaders.

Specifically, the research has helped to identify four factors that drive CEO performance, using the acronym DARE — decisiveness, adapting proactively, relentless reliability, and engaging for results.

Of these, Botelho pointed to reliability as the most troublesome factor, given that it is not conventionally associated with success. “A reliable CEO is 15 times more likely to succeed,” she said. “Of the four CEO behaviors, it is the one behavior that makes you twice as likely to get selected for a job and 15 times more likely to succeed in it.”

“The real secret of CEO behavior is not intellectually grasping [DARE],” she added. “It’s doing them relentlessly and simple things like showing up on time for meetings.”

Accordingly, Botelho also noted that “your confidence, your likeability, your charisma actually have no impact on performance.” Instead, she cited that many CEOs have seen themselves as the underdog at some point in their career. Moreover, a good CEO is also one that is comfortable making mistakes.

“It’s not the nature of the mistake itself that made the difference, it’s how they processed it,” she explained. “It’s all about making the most of the mistake for the learning of yourself and the organization.”

After years of advising CEOs, furthermore, DeSalva noted that her new tenure as H+K CEO has helped her understand the importance of decisive decision-making. “As a new CEO, it’s very tempting to want to study and learn and listen,” she pointed out. “Often times, it’s not the quality of decision-making but the pace of decision-making that’s important.”

Written by Arun Sudhaman with additional reporting by Diana Marszalek