3 Things I Learned as CEO

Recently, I was interviewed by Business Day, a leading publication in Nigeria, when I was in Lagos to speak at the West Africa Business Leaders Summit. The full article (no paywall) can be found here. An excerpt is below. They asked me the following question:

“As a former CEO of a multinational organisation with operations in over 100 countries and an employer of approximately 45,000 people worldwide, what is your greatest learning?”

One of my greatest learnings as CEO of Nielsen is that my jokes were funnier when I was CEO than both before and after I was CEO. And in that little piece of humour is also contained a little wisdom and warning for all of us as leaders, which is that we have to resist the artificial bubble of leadership and stay grounded in reality, truth, and authenticity.

Another of my most important learnings is that the role luck plays in our success is larger than most of us realize or are otherwise willing to admit. Recognizing the role luck plays in our success carries at least two big benefits: 1. It keeps us humble, and humility is an essential trait for a good leader; and 2. It keeps us resilient. If some of our successes are a result of luck (vs. only our hard work and brilliance), then the same is true of some of our failures, and when they occur, this recognition encourages us to pick ourselves up, keep moving forward, and try again.

Finally, my most important learning of all was that while the world will judge us by our outcomes, we will ultimately judge ourselves by the quality of our motives, the quality of our decisions, and the wake we create for the people around us. When I force myself to be quiet and still and I take a long look in the mirror, I see the truth. Do I like what I see? This ultimately has proven more important to me and the people I care most about than anything else.

Published by Mitch Barns


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