Why Do We Pay So Much Attention to CEOs?

Why Do We Pay So Much Attention to CEOs?

You might think it’s about the player, but it’s about the game. And the game is tougher than ever. In this article, Dev Patnaik explains why it’s important for CEOs to be future- focused, and how watching them succeed — or fail — is incredibly instructive for our own careers.

Every week, we seem to be hit with a new story of a CEO who’s fallen from grace: Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, Adam Neumann of WeWork, or Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX. Of course, the news ignores the other chief executives who are doing a reasonably good job. That’s the nature of news. But it does get me thinking: why do we spend so much time watching CEOs anyway?

I’ve spent much of my adult life advising senior execs, including many CEOs. It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Fifteen years ago, I left the office of one, who had graced the cover many esteemed business publications, feeling more than a little depressed. The person I’d just met seemed deeply insecure. They were focused on the present, rather than the future, and they struck me as a generally weak leader. Getting into the elevator, I couldn’t help but think, “We only need a few hundred people to lead the world’s largest companies. Surely, we can find people better than this?”

Only with further reflection did I realize the problem wasn’t them. It was me. It was my expectations. I had fallen into one of the same traps that most of us do when we think about CEOs.

Many of us would like to believe that we live in a meritocracy, where the very best rise to the top. In that narrative, CEOs of the largest companies should be modern day Philosopher Kings, wielding both power and wisdom for the benefit of all.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Of course, there are a lot of people who think the exact opposite. They see corporations as evil, rapacious entities and the people who lead them as sociopathic greedheads. In that narrative, CEOs are just the most aggressive narcissists who managed to crawl their way to the top.

I thought CEOs should be the former. And I was beginning to worry that they were the latter. But I started to question my own assumptions. And I now realize that, in most instances, the truth is neither of those narratives.

Read full article on Forbes.

Dev Patnaik


Dev Patnaik is the CEO of Jump Associates, the leading independent strategy and innovation firm. He’s a board member of Conscious Capitalism. Dev has been a trusted advisor to CEOs at some of the world’s most admired companies, including Starbucks, Target, Nike, Universal and Virgin.