In Praise of Dullness

Is being a great communicator important for CEOs?  David Brooks in today’s New York Times In Praise of Dullness — cites research by Kaplan, Klebanov and Sorensen that purports to show that strong executional and organizational skills are more important in a CEO than team-building, interpersonal skills and communications.  On the face of it, this is a sharp stick in the eye of those of who have spent careers helping CEOs become great communicators if they are already good and good ones if mediocre.  However, a closer reading of the research reminds one of the old saw about the tree falling in the forest: if no one hears it, does it make a sound?  If what the market wants from CEOs is resolute leadership, a clear vision for the company’s direction and evidence of strong execution, as Brooks suggests, how is the market to know these exist unless we tell them?  Do the numbers speak for themselves?  Perhaps, but most analysts I know have this curious need to hear the CEO explain the numbers with passion and insight.  So, perhaps all is not in vain for the communicators.  Keep working on the thought leadership and promoting your CEO’s sustained strategic credibility.  If necessary, stage some opportunities for her or him to exhibit resolution, dullness and humility.  But don’t overdo it.

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