Are CEOs Naturally Clear?

During an interview about my new book, The Power of Clarity: Unleash the True Potential of Workplace Productivity, Confidence, and Empowerment (Bloomsbury, July 2021), for Unleashed the Podcast, Dan Weedin asked whether CEOs are naturally clear. An accompanying question distracted me and I never got a chance to answer this great question. So let me do that now.

Before I give my answer, let me point out one indisputable fact. And that is that CEOs and other leaders generally think they are quite clear. Very clear even. The higher their rank, the more certain they usually are of their clarity.

What are the consequences of being certain of your clarity?

The problem with this certainty is that CEOs tend to assume that anyone who doesn’t think the way they do, arrive at the same conclusion they do, and/or immediately understand what they are trying to say, is defective. Unclear. Illogical. Mistaken. At fault. Or all of the above. If you tend to reach such conclusions, it will cause impatience and frustration, along with insufficient respect for those who think differently or just plain disagree with you. You dismiss the voices of others and fail to listen carefully to what they are trying to tell you. Both the damage to relationships and the squelching of voices are a loss to any organization.

But are CEOs and other leaders naturally clear?

Many CEOs and other leaders are quite clear. Often that is part of the reason they have been promoted. Some of the most common capabilities associated with clarity that lead to promotion include the ability to:

  • Work through decisions confidently and relatively quickly
  • Sort out priorities
  • Cut to the chase when problems arise
  • Establish a clear sense of purpose
  • Inspire others

These are important capabilities that can both stem from and lead to greater clarity. The problem is that even the clearest of the clear rarely have any idea how they create clarity or how to teach others to be more clear. They are unconsciously competent. They haven’t the awareness, the skill, the passion, or even the language needed to teach others how to create clarity. Thus, they are stuck with their frustration with the “incompetence” surrounding them and are unable to truly maximize the ability of others to contribute their very best. If you can’t trust others to be clear and you can’t teach them to be clear, you can’t really empower them.

So how clear are CEOs?

While these naturally clear leaders may be clearer than average, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t be a lot clearer! Most suffer from clarity blindness – an inability to recognize a lack of clarity in themselves or its role as the root cause of many problems. In a previous post here on Forbes, Leaders Can’t Afford To Be Clarity Blind – Though Most Are, I list plenty of evidence of clarity blindness and most CEOs should recognize themselves in my examples.

So the short answer is, “Yes,” CEOs are often, but not always, naturally clear, but their certainty that they are, their unconscious competence, and their clarity blindness prevent them from being dramatically clearer. They are a significant part of the reason I wrote The Power of Clarity. Clarity is the next performance frontier. Those who read my book and learn:

  • why we aren’t as clear as we think we are,
  • the cost of our disclarity,
  • where clarity is and isn’t in our organizations,
  • the three keys to uncommon clarity, and
  • how to harness the power of clarity

will open the door to far greater productivity, confidence, empowerment, and profit.

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