Seniority is not necessarily proof of competence - there are individually many bad bosses even at the highest levels - but collectively, the leaders of our biggest firms must be doing something right.
Here are seven nuggets of career-enhancing wisdom from the C-suite, extracted from recent interviews in Management Today. Read them quickly; digest them slowly.
1. Trust people
The first lesson of leadership is that it isn’t really about you. "You have to make people feel very comfortable. They respond magnificently when they feel like you’re relying on them, you trust them, and you respect them," says Chris Pieroni, operations director, Workspace.
2. Be humble
Acting as though you have all the answers is an invitation for disaster, because there’s nothing to save you from your own weaknesses. Believing you have all the answers is even worse. "It requires a fair bit of humility, to say I don’t know everything, I’m very comfortable with not knowing anything, and asking for help," says Tom Monahan, former CEO of billion dollar insights firm CEB.
3. Keep learning
The world moves quickly. If you’re not constantly updating your skills and seeking to better yourself, it will leave you behind. "You need a thirst for self-improvement and self-development that’s not reliant on other people," says Paul Geddes, former CEO of FTSE 100 insurance business Direct Line.
4. Toughen up
Sometimes the world will leave you behind anyway, but you can’t let that stop you. "When I started my career as an engineer, it was a case of do your degree, do your apprenticeship, become an engineer and stay an engineer," says Alistair Cox, CEO of FTSE 250 recruitment firm Hays. Now, it may be the case that you will retrain several times. "You need to be resilient and persistent," he says.
5. Don’t sit on the fence
A lesson that Pieroni learned is to always make a decision. If you make the wrong decision, there is always an opportunity to make it right, but inaction only creates more problems and robs you of the chance to use your skills. "You need to make lots of [decisions] constantly, and be comfortable doing it."
6. Work abroad
"Learning how to operate in a completely different culture is invaluable. I don’t think I’d be able to do my job without it. If you get the opportunity [to work abroad], take it, wherever you’re coming from and wherever you’re going to," advises Cox.
7. Step back
And keep in mind, that despite all the career changes you take to get to where you want to be, your past does not define you. And the sooner you realise this and let it go, the better, says Chris Hirst, CEO of Havas Creative. "I think if we could all do that we'd all be happier people."
Image credit: Direct Line