The Best CEO I Ever Served With

Last week the Upstate Vistage member CEO’s were privileged to spend 4 hours with Herb Meyer.  In addition to his distinguished business career, Herb served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council under President Ronald Reagan.  Among Herb’s many achievements was to be the first to predict the fall of the Soviet Union.  For this forecast, Herb was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be blogging about several of the insights Herb shared with us.  One of the most compelling was his answer to the question: Why was Ronald Reagan so successful as President?  Herb replied that Ronald Reagan was “the best CEO I ever served with.”  His reasons why:

1) “President Reagan told his staff, ‘I will only do those things that only I can do.'”  The President of the United States has more things on his plate than any other leader in the world.  How to get it all done?  By only doing those things that only you, as the President, can do.

2) “Hire first-rate talent.”  (compare with Lee Iacocca’s observation “I hire people brighter than me and then get out of their way.”)

3) “You’re going to have to hire people you don’t want to hang out with.”  (compare with Jim Collins, “Get the right people on the bus, and get them in the right seat on the bus.”)

4) “Executives fail because they can’t take the punishment when things go wrong.”  (Hence they try to control everything and become overloaded or burned out.)

How do these insights apply to you and your organization?  Are you doing things that others can and should do?  Are you hiring first-rate talent? (If not, then that automatically makes YOU second-rate talent.)  Are you willing to hire someone you personally might not want to hang out with but who is a great fit for your organization?  Can you let go of the reins for things that others can do and then take the heat when things don’t go perfectly?



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