5 Ways to Become CEO of Me Inc.

Last Updated Jun 22, 2011 11:22 AM EDT

In researching my last book, A New Purpose, I found many generous people doing things for others, often through small non-profits that they had begun. One woman was a volunteer who had set up shop on the north side of Milwaukee and was helping low-income youth learn how to manage their life, income and career.

Her message was simple: think of yourself as a corporation -- call it Me Inc., where you are the CEO. Young or old, wealthy or poor, you have the power to manage your life better. Her message was broader than the one that came along later in CEO of Me by Ellen Ernst Kossek and Brenda A. Lautsch, authors who focused on career in the flexible job age.

I was reminded of the CEO of Me concept reading about Landing in the Executive Chair, a new book by Dr. Linda Henman geared to aspiring corner-office types. The author notes five ways to tell if a CEO is earning his or her pay, and it strikes me that the qualities that she says make for a good CEO of a large corporation also make for a good CEO of Me Inc. Here they are:

  • Strategic thinker "Leaders understand how to match a strategy with the tactics and talent to see it through," Henman says. "CEOs who constantly react to events, instead of planning for the future, remain followers and not leaders." Individuals need a strategy too -- for their career when they are young and for retirement security when they are older. Promotions at work and healthy nest eggs don't just happen. Folks with a plan have a far higher rate of success when it comes to achieving personal goals.
  • Sound decision-maker "When CEOs consistently make good decisions, little else matters; when they make bad decisions, nothing else matters," says Henman. "Decisiveness distinguishes leaders from everyone else...(but) a decisive CEO who can't hit the target is the same as an indecisive CEO who doesn't even know where to find it." Making good decisions is what life is all about -- from when to drink to whom to hang around with to how to save. Make good decisions and the rest will come.
  • Good judge of talent "Successful CEOs know how to tie talent to their strategies...(They)hire the best and the brightest and compensate them fairly," Henman says. "Moreover, they give these people a chance to thrive." Individuals can do the same thing in their personal life. Figure out who will give the best chance to succeed and build a strong network of friends, family, advisers, colleagues and potential employers.
  • Demands excellence "Leaders who attract and retain top talent stress excellence," Henman says. "They focus on good execution of plans and they don't skew the mission by placing value on issues that have little to do with strategic goals." You should demand excellence and focus too -- of yourself first and then of those who you choose to associate with.
  • Results oriented "Too many executives talk about how to motivate the troops," Henman says. "Those who excel in the hot seat do better; they hire people who are self-motivated, define clear objectives, hold people accountable and get out of the way." Results matter in your personal life as well. If you're not getting ahead at work it's probably a bad fit, and if you are not able to save you are doing something wrong. Look at the result of your behavior. If you don't like what you see take it as a sign that you need to make some changes.
Photo courtesy Flickr user axle81401
More on MoneyWatch:
  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.