CEOs Are Not Necessarily Leaders

Businessweek has an article about the difference between CEOs and leaders. The author blames business journalists for part of the problem.

…the media and business need to do a better job spotlighting truly great leaders in Corporate America, such as Xerox's Anne Mulcahy or Southwest Airlines' Gary Kelly, to present a more accurate picture of today's chief executives.

Imagine the lubrication we could add to our business and economic engines if society recognized that the vast majority of CEOs are honorable leaders driven by more than the prospect of personal gain. That's why we must make sure that CEOs' values are considered on par with their business results. The alternative is to allow the bullies of business to define our world and ourselves, harming us all in the bargain.

I agree, but the flip side of the argument is that the media is just giving people what they want to read – sensationalism.

  • Paul

    Anyone can give orders. A leader doesn’t have to; people are inspired to align behind the mission and find the right things to do on their own.

    Most people are just Managers, issuing orders in some form. Few are the Leaders.

  • The fundamental problem is that the media exists to make money. Thus, whoever can be put on a cover to sell magazines will get the spotlight (young leaders, brash leaders, rich leaders, or just about any other polarized attribute).

  • Jane

    The following line of the article defined the difference perfectly: “CEOs are measured by quantitative results. Leaders are shaped and defined by character…Leaders inspire and enable others to do excellent work and realize their potential. As a result, they build successful, enduring organizations.”

    I recently attended a leadership seminar called Movers & Shakespeares ( that showed a similar idea of what leadership is by relating it to Henry V. Really interesting way of showing the the key idea that a leader inspires and motivates…that is what sets them aside from the rest and makes them truly successful.