The imperfect CEO

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Justus O’Brien and Dean Stamoulis, Managing Directors at Russell Reynolds Associates, advocate for leaders to embrace their imperfections and vulnerabilities in order to lead with greater effectiveness.

Complexities and uncertainties

The traditional ideal of a flawless CEO fails to acknowledge the complexities and uncertainties of leadership in today’s rapidly changing world.

Authenticity, empathy, and humility

Instead, leaders who demonstrate authenticity, empathy, and humility are better equipped to navigate uncertainty and foster a culture of innovation.


To achieve this, CEOs must shift their mindset and behavior by creating an environment that encourages open dialogue, values diverse perspectives, and promotes psychological safety. Acknowledging limitations and seeking input from others enables leaders to make informed decisions and drive meaningful change.

Continuous learning

Self-awareness and continuous learning are also crucial for effective leadership. Seeking feedback internally and externally allows for the identification of blind spots and areas for personal growth.

By fostering a learning mindset and actively seeking development opportunities, leaders can enhance their effectiveness and inspire their teams.


Boards should prioritize selecting CEOs based on the right mix of skills, experience, and character traits needed for effective leadership, while providing ongoing support, guidance, and mentoring.


Embracing imperfections is key to not only leading with greater effectiveness, but also inspiring teams to reach new heights.

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