Managing the Future

Here’s a simple litmus test for how well you’re doing as a leader: In times of trouble, do employees turn toward you for guidance, or do they run and hide?

When the latter happens, you have a cockroach culture in your organization — and you probably aren’t an effective leader. Your presence as CEO is like a light flicked on in a musty room. People scatter for the exits. They want to stay out of your way, disappear until whatever the issue is blows over. They’re in survival mode. Their prime strategy is avoidance.

The ideal for the CEO should rather be to draw people toward the light, like moths to a beacon. If catastrophe happens and people want to hear more from you, to be in your presence, then you’re operating on the moth model —and you probably are an effective leader. Which of the following most resembles your company culture?

Cockroach culture is an unpleasant phenomenon:

  • The CEO registers as a threat. He or she provokes stress by their mere presence.

  • Darkness is comfort. People don’t want to really think about the problems facing the organization. Stay in the walls. Come out later when it’s safe.

  • Rumor thrives. With everyone avoiding the light, competing agendas develop. The natural tendency to worry manifests in anxious whispers.

  • Individual first. Because these organizations lack strong leadership, people look out primarily for themselves. “Get through another day” is the mantra.

The moth model feels very different:

  • The CEO is a confidence-building presence. He or she communicates with authenticity and transparency. People seek out the CEO’s guidance—they want to hear more, not less.

  • The way ahead is lit. Employees aren’t afraid of looking at things in the light of day. If there’s an issue, they will assess it and work on it.

  • People understand the vision. Thanks to the CEO’s clear ownership of the vision, employees know where they are headed and the general plan for getting there.

  • Team first. The CEO has unified disparate parts of the organization into a team that actually enjoys working together to progress toward the goals.

This is a dynamic we should be aware of as CEOs, and it gives us an ideal to strive for. When disaster strikes, aim to be the leader people gravitate toward for direction, not scurry away from in fear.

The Rundown - 34th Edition

Consumer Price Index Reacceleration

Inflation stays up, including the price of food.

Parcel Wars

The nation’s biggest shippers compete for dominance on a very uneven playing field.

US Economic Growth > G7 in 2024

The outlook for US GDP growth looks good, but the overall picture is more complex.

Click Here to Get the Full Rundown

READ TIME: 3m, 38s

“Truth in itself is rarely sufficient to make men act. Hence the step is always long from cognition to volition, from knowledge to ability. The most powerful springs of action in men lie in his emotions.”

—Carl von Clausewitz


“Learning requires two things: One is understanding what the correct decision is, and the other is understanding what the errors in your thinking are.”

—Annie Duke


One of the most counterintuitive ideas we can share when it comes to learning is that the real breakthrough answers for your business, the truly profound ideas, are going to come from outside your industry.

—Jim Schleckser

Stat of the Week: Is AI Coming for CEOs’ Jobs, Too?

New research from AND Digital found that a good chunk of CEOs in the US, UK, and Netherlands see artificial intelligence majorly disrupting their role: 43 percent said they believe that AI could replace the job of the CEO. What do you think?

2024 Course Schedule

 For CEOs: Chief Executive Operating System (CEO-S) Course

Our flagship course in mastering the CEO role.

  • June 5–7, 2024

  • October 23–25, 2024

For HR Leaders: Take Your Seat at the Table

A 2-day workshop for strategic HR leaders. Use code MTF for 50% off!

  • May 14–15, 2024

  • October 29–30, 2024   New!

 For Managers: Free Management System Certification

Over one day, get certified in a proven system for management excellence.

  • May 21, 2024

  • June 18, 2024

Want to get more from executive coaching?

 I am a big proponent of executive coaching, but some CEOs find that the typical coaching approach isn’t meeting their needs. In some cases, the CEO doesn’t need the reactive support the usual coach provides; instead, they would benefit more from proactive frameworks and tools they can apply right away.

If that resonates with you, let’s chat. I founded the Chief Executive Operating System to offer CEOs the kind of proven, practical support — including frameworks, learning, and software — that supplements or replaces the traditional executive coach.

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