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Business Observer Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 6 years ago

It's lonely at the top

The isolation of a CEO is crystallized in a new Stanford University survey.

The isolation of a CEO is crystallized in a new Stanford University survey.

The survey reports that nearly two-thirds of CEOs don't receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants — yet most top executives say they could use the help. Half of senior the executives polled also don't receive any outside advice, says the survey. The Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University's Rock Center for Corporate Governance and The Miles Group, an executive consulting firm, conducted the survey. The organizations polled more than 200 CEOs, board directors and senior executives of North American firms, both public and private.

“What's interesting,” Stanford professor David Larcker says in a release, “is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap.”

Nearly half of the CEO respondents, 43%, say their biggest personal development need is how to better handle conflict. “When you are in the CEO role,” says The Miles Group CEO Stephen Miles, “most things that come to your desk only get there because there is a difficult decision to be made — which often has some level of conflict associated with it.”

Other skills that score high on the CEO need list include sharing leadership and delegating; team building; and mentoring. Skills that most CEOs say they don't need help with in terms of coaching, the survey reports, include motivating others; compassion and empathy; and persuasion skills.

“Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it's concerning that so many of them are 'going it alone,'” Miles says in the release. “Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.”

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