Share the power

Scott Fredrick is CEO of Milwaukee-based Phoenix Products Company Inc., a manufacturer of special-purpose lighting fixtures designed to withstand harsh environments. He also leads Phoenix International Inc., which produces ovens for holding, reconditioning and rebaking welding supplies. Fredrick has overseen growth in products, profit and market share, learning valuable lessons about power along the way.

“Being in a position of power and responsibility doesn’t mean you should not share that power and responsibility. Here are three lessons I’ve learned:

  • A CEO should work on, not in, the business. Many CEOs complain that they can’t focus on strategic issues because they get dragged into day-to-day operating matters. Put your time, knowledge, experience and effort where you can be most effective, and where you are not duplicating the efforts and abilities of your managers.
  • Many CEOs make too many decisions. Even if they are good decisions, you’ll hamper the growth of colleagues if you step in too often to take the reins. Potential leaders won’t tolerate feeling stymied by the boss. Give bright young hires responsibility and latitude. Their innovative thinking and ability to complete challenging tasks and solve problems might surprise you. And remember: It’s not fair to lament the lack of a worthy successor if you don’t nurture talent within your organization.
  • Select top managers who are very different from you – even those who sometimes aggressively challenge and exasperate you with their nontraditional approach. Why? Because they see things from a different perspective, compelling you to make decisions and accomplish things you might never have considered possible. Diversity in analysis and outlook are as valuable to an organization as gender and ethnic diversity.

“CEOs have the same number of hours in a day as their staff members. Get the right people in the right jobs working on the right issues, and then limit your involvement to providing strategic direction and support. Do only those things that only you as CEO can do.”

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