Emotional fortitude: The inner work of the CEO
Emotional fortitude—the ability to stay clear-headed while exploring one’s emotional reactions to sources of tension—can improve a CEO’s resilience to the stressors of decision-making and lead to better decision outcomes.July | 2021
Wehther at a large, established firm or a fast-growing one, making decisions while staring disruption in the face may be the most grueling element of being a CEO. Data feels insufficient. Assumptions feel tenuous. Options feel constrained. Timing feels rushed. Outcomes feel binary: The decision either takes the organization in the right direction or the wrong one.
Yet executives—particularly CEOs—are expected to be the most qualified people in their organization to make decisions. CEOs, perhaps more than those in any other executive role, feel enormous pressure to get it “right.” Even the most level-headed CEO is apt to experience sleepless nights and personal doubts about the choices they make and the consequences that result. If the decision ultimately proves to be a poor one, there is no one else to blame. How can CEOs increase their chances of making an optimal decision when all of the alternatives may not be known, when time is not on their side, and when emotions play a central role before, during, and after the decision is made?
In the article, Emotional fortitude: The inner work of the CEO we identified a trait we call emotional fortitude as one of the five signature attributes of an “undisruptable” CEO. More than the other four, emotional fortitude truly represents the “inner work” that effective CEOs perform as they journey through the decision-making process and live with the consequences.
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