Carolyn Dewar: Six Mindsets That Distinguish The Best Leaders

Being a CEO at any of the world’s largest companies is among the most challenging roles in business. Billions, and even trillions, are at stake – and the fates of tens of thousands of employees often hang in the balance. Yet, even when “can’t miss” high-achievers win the top job, very few prove to excel.

According to the New York Times & Wall Street Journal bestseller, “CEO Excellence,” “Thirty percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are booted from their jobs in three years or less, and two-out-of-five new CEOs are perceived to be failing within eighteen months.”  Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, apparently.

Seeing these statistics and wondering what behaviors prove to distinguish the very best CEOs, three McKinsey senior partners – including Carolyn Dewar – identified over 2400 public company CEOs before distilling that group into a smaller elite corps. And sixty-seven of that final group agreed to in-depth, multi-hour interviews including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, American Express’ Ken Chenault, Sony’s Kazuo Hirai & GM’s Mary Barra.

From what’s been described as being “frank, no-holds-barred conversations” the three McKinsey partners were able to pin down the uncommon mindsets these top performing CEOs shared in common. And Carolyn Dewar joins us to explore all they discovered.

As Carolyn repeatedly affirms in our conversation, the behaviors that define top CEOs prove to be ones that define the top managers at almost all other levels of an organization.  And the leadership thinking Carolyn affirms as being critically needed in our workplaces today has surprising resonance with pretty much all of the themes we address on this podcast.

Heading into the interview, I’m not sure I expected this from a senior partner at McKinsey! As you’ll hear, Carolyn exudes a wonderful and enlightened balance of mind and heart.

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.