The difficulties of finding CEO community
As you rise through an organisation and assume increasing responsibilities, it can be harder to find peers who can challenge your thinking and provide fresh input into your toughest problems.
And the unique challenge you have as a CEO is there’s only one of you - unlike most other people in the organisation (from account managers to C-Suite leaders) you don’t have an internal peer group to compare notes with and be inspired and challenged by.
As a result of this, too many CEOs (and other high-performing leaders) are isolated and woefully short on peer community.
Why every CEO needs a peer community
However, as the saying goes, “you become the average of the people you spend the most time with.” Which means, if you’re the smartest (or most accomplished) person in the room, you’re in the wrong room…
Community is one of the biggest levers of transformation I know. Personally speaking, when I shifted from the corporate world to the world of entrepreneurship, I immersed myself in entrepreneur communities. This gave me access to people further in the journey than me - as well as peers to share and learn with. Indeed, I joined one of the highest-level coaching masterminds in the world: suddenly I was immersed in a group who played a bigger game than I did, and it forced me to step up.
These are important questions because, as leadership author John C Maxwell puts it, “the leader is the lid” on the organisation. If you want your organisation to step up, you need to be growing as a leader yourself.
Ultimately, being unable to step back and reflect with peers will absolutely feed down to business metrics.
“You become the average of the people you spend the most time with.” Which means, if you’re the smartest (or most accomplished) person in the room, you’re in the wrong room…
Different options for CEO communities
So, who are you surrounding yourself with to challenge and inspire you, to help you play a bigger game as CEO, and to raise the quality of your thinking and your leadership?
How do you find a room where you’re not the most accomplished leader present? Well, here are some different ways to get started.
The first option isn’t really a CEO community at all, but it is a simple and accessible option. It’s to surround yourself with the wisdom of CEO peers and mentors through published media. Find a great CEO biography or book, or subscribe to a great CEO podcast or two.
Every CEO should be reading and learning, but this is not recommended for any CEO as a substitute for true community.
There are plenty of associations and organisations keen to welcome CEOs; for example the UK’s Institute of Directors. These provide plenty of content, resources, training programmes, and networking events.
CEOs looking for specialist resources and “breadth rather than depth” of relationships.
Informal CEO masterminds
A CEO mastermind is a group of peer CEOs who get together on a regular basis to collaborate and share wisdom on each other’s top business challenges. The format varies, but often members take it in turns to bring a thorny topic to the table - and the whole group brings their perspective and ideas.
An informal mastermind occurs when a group of people get together to organise this: “hey, why don’t we meet for a couple of hours each month as a mastermind?”
Cash-strapped individuals who have the time and motivation to recruit, manage and facilitate mastermind sessions.
Paid CEO masterminds
As explained above, a CEO mastermind is a group of peer CEOs who get together regularly to collaborate and share wisdom on each other’s top business and leadership challenges.
A paid CEO mastermind is professionally organised and facilitated. It may involve face-to-face interactions or it could be purely virtual, although many paid masterminds have some kind of annual retreat or away-day.
Care needs to be taken on choosing a mastermind that has the right focus. For example, Xquadrant’s CEO Mastermind focuses on top CEOs running established companies in the tech/digital space. Other masterminds will cater to start-ups, small businesses, consultancies, etc. Look for the “Goldilocks principle” - not too dissimilar but not too competitive either!
CEOs who are serious about growing their personal impact and business results. This is the gold standard.
Finding a CEO community
Once you’ve decided which type of community you’re interested in, I recommend making some immediate enquiries so it’s not another thing to “get to someday”.
If you’re a tech/digital sector CEO/President looking for a paid and professional mastermind, Xquadrant’s own CEO Mastermind may be relevant. If not, you should be able to find interesting options through peer contacts, by asking your executive coach, or on the web.