According to Lucy Kellaway, a Financial Times journalist who has confessed to studying the traits of CEOs for the past 15 years, the seven most common ‘deadly sins’ of CEOs are:

  • Being a control freak
  • Being vain
  • Being a ditherer
  • Not listening
  • Being a bully
  • Being afraid of conflict
  • Not being able to ‘do’ small talk


Comment: According to Ms Kellaway, these characteristics are common to both male and female CEOs as well as to both American and British CEOs.


From what experience I have of these things, this would seem to be a pretty accurate piece of research. At least, it fits well with my prejudices and conclusions.


The danger is that, now these traits have been identified, ‘CEO wannabes’ will actively seek to develop these characteristics in the hope of being promoted to that elusive top job. Yet, as we all know, the secret of success – in business as in other areas of life – is tied up with cultivating traits that are usually the opposite to these.