12 Capabilities Every CEO Needs to Look for in their Advisors

The requirements for leadership today are more challenging than ever before. Business leaders are faced with complexity & uncertainty that requires wise judgment and fast action.

Who helps you make the tough calls?

I just read (and highly recommend), The Third Opinion: How Successful Leaders Use Outside Insight to Create Superior Results, by Dr. Saj-nicole A. Joni. In a nutshell, she concludes,

Working with a circle of the best thinkers—as advisers, experts, and questioners—is essential to successful leadership.

According to Dr. Joni, “The capabilities of your inner-circle thinking partners should reach well beyond categories of expertise, such as finance, global strategy, product development, or organizational dynamics. In short here’s what you look for:

  1. The ability to see all sides of a complex issue.
  2. Someone who asks great questions and listens closely—including for what isn’t being said.
  3. Someone who doesn’t offer advice.
  4. Someone who has a reputation for integrity.
  5. Someone who has high-quality expertise and experience relevant to the key issues you need to resolve.
  6. A person who can provide unique perspective.
  7. Someone who has the ability to tailor content to challenges and questions at hand.
  8. Someone who clicks with you intellectually as well as personally.
  9. Someone who has an intuitive understanding of your strengths and meshes well with them.
  10. A person who possesses authentic curiosity and empathy.
  11. Someone who is free from conflict of interest, both personal and structural.
  12. Someone who reciprocates in choosing you.

I don’t believe it’s possible to find all these capabilities in a single person; but, it is in a group. 18 years ago, I discovered an organization named Vistage International; it changed my life and helped my company to become one of the 100 fastest growing companies. Now, I chair four Vistage groups in NYC. We meet once a month; each group has about a dozen successful smart business owners.

Our vision is that our Vistage group is the place CEOs can turn to with their most confidential questions and pressing issues. As a diverse group of seasoned successful business owners, we help each other develop alternatives and solutions. We provide an outside perspective so that members can have their ideas tested, torn apart, and dissected. We look for errors in information or missing pieces in logic. And we do this with respect and care because we have all been there.

None of us is as smart as all of us.