Manufacturing and What It Takes To Be a Fortune 500 CEO
Posted by Bert Maes on April 22, 2011
Yesterday I posed a video in which the former CEO of Intel tells us that the most common educational background of the Fortune 500 CEOs today engineering education is. Today I am reading Adam Bryant’s post on what it takes to lead a Fortune 500 company, a start-up, and, yes, a school.
The five skills Bryant found -in interviewing more than 70 chief executives- can and should be learned in school. Manufacturing and engineering classes are the ideal tools for that purpose. After all, engineering courses can promote the qualities Bryant distilled: fascinated how things work, ask the right questions, critical analysis, questioning data, communicate ideas successfully, transfer knowledge to new contexts, creative problems solving.
The perseverance, the precision, the determination and the out-of-the-box thinking needed to manufacture something, turn out essential for a CEO and for day-to-day life.
Here are the five essentials for success — qualities that most of the Fortune 500 CEOs share and look for in people they hire.
- Passionate Curiosity: What, ultimately, is the CEOs job? “To be a student of human nature.” The CEOs are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students. They always want to learn everything, they are engaged with the world, fascinated with everything around them, and want to understand anybody with asking the questions: Why do you do that? How come it’s done this way? Is there a better way? It is this relentless questioning that is their greatest contributions to their organizations.
- Battle-Hardened Confidence: For leaders status quo is not an option. They own the challenges with perseverance, purpose and determination. They make mistakes, don’t look for excuses, dust themselves off and keep fighting the next day. They say “Got it. I’m on it.” – Words that are music to a manager’s ears.
- Team Smarts: They understand how teams work, sense how people react to one another, recognize the players the team needs, know how to bring them together around a common goal and how to get the most out of the group. The greatest players might not be the stars, but those will get you the ball and then be where you’d expect to put it back to them. The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people.
- A Simple Mind-Set: Most executives expect people to be concise, get to the point, make it simple… Yet few people can deliver the simplicity and focused thinking of a 10-word summary of his or her idea, get to the conclusion first, starting with “Here’s what’s important …” or “The bottom line is … .”
- Fearlessness: [CEOs are] looking for calculated and informed risk-taking, but mostly they want people to do things–and not just what they’re told to do…. They want people to shaking up status quo, not necessarily because things are broken, but because they can be much better and should be much better.
However, it should be noted that all of these are personal traits cannot make individual leaders do it all–turning around companies and schools by virtue of their energies. The organization settings and context interferes. Saviors with the right personal traits might make a difference if they adapt to and work with the new setting rather than repeat behaviors that seemingly worked elsewhere. Think: transfer knowledge to a new context.
Engineers and manufacturers are trained such that they can take a problem and design a solution that meets the requirements, by working in team, by taking information from various fields and apply that information to solve problems.
It looks to me that engineering and manufacturing classes can prepare you for the challenges of the real world. If you can survive the challenges of manufacturing school, you can probably survive the challenges of a CEO too…
Is that the reason why the most common educational background of the Fortune 500 CEOs today is engineering education?