I always wonder what makes CEOs scared. Who wouldn’t? The impression they give is that they are always up to the task. This research from Vantage Hill Partners just appeared in HBR‘s weekly bulletin and describes what CEOs are most afraid of. It is based on interviews with 116 CEOs and other executives and provides some fascinating insights. Roger Jones who wrote the piece and is CEO of Vantage Hill completed 27 in-depth interviews and writes that the most frequently mentioned fears were “losing their reputation, underachieving, and dying, both literally and in their career, and how it inspires a fixation on status, appearing youthful, and making money.” On the same day I read this I was on my way to work and read about Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco, who was convicted and served time in prison for “looting the company.” In the interview with Kozlowski who symbolized the Celebrity CEO era and who is now free, he admits “I was piggy. But I’m not that person anymore.” His big luxury today is having a fresh avocado whenever he pleases. That’s a big change from his days of “Deal-A-Day Dennis.” The fixation on money does feed into the downside of CEOs and leads to big problems.
However, stay tuned. We are coming out with some new research on CEO reputation and it’s anything but celebrity these days.