The Hardest Part Of Being A CEO

In 2006, during my summer internship with McKinsey, Kevin Sharer (CEO, Amgen) visited the New York office as a guest speaker. Kevin, a former McKinsey consultant, was heading Amgen, a world leader in battling deadly illnesses like cancer.

During the Q&A session, a colleague asked: What is the hardest part of being a CEO?

He said, 'Some people can understand and handle the nitty-gritty of a business at the lowest level (e.g., what happens at the shop-floor). Others can only think at the 30,000 ft level (e..g, strategy, industry trends). A CEO needs to be able to do both, zooming in and out effortlessly. That is the hardest part.'

In other words, you have to see the details but you HAVE to be able to step back and see the big picture.

Staying busy 24x7, just reacting to emails, messages, and 'urgent' stuff, is a recipe for 'busyness' and distraction, not for success. Because if you are perpetually distracted, you can't step back nor will you know when to do so.

A CEO's real superpower is 'focus.'

And lest you dismiss this as irrelevant, remember that you are the CEO of your life. And it is a heck of a responsibility, and no less challenging.


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