The Stuff of Great Executives

Product thumb
Image by Gaping Void

I was chatting with someone last week who asked me what it takes to become a great executive. My response: To be successful — man or woman — you need to do one thing, and one thing only. You must be able to move you, your company’s or your nonprofit’s business from A to B. Create growth or change consistently.

That’s it.

I see many societal issues that can prevent people from success, and I’m not making light of them. Some paths are easier, and that’s not fair. There are many secondary distractions that cause people to focus on other issues at work rather than the actual outcomes.

But right or wrong, the ability to deliver consistent results is the unifying characteristic of people who succeed.

They do whatever it takes, and they don’t make excuses. Period.

Everything else is a distraction.

We let people stop us because we don’t havethe right degree, choose to have a family life (I am one of those, and I am still successful… At least by my terms), race, gender, faith, on and on…

Bottom line? If you produce someone will give you a shot. It’s inevitable. Winning silences critics.

Continue producing and have the fortitude to network in the face of obstacles until that opportunity arrives.

And when it does you must seize it. If you don’t because you believe your naysayers, the blame lies with you. No one else is to blame, no underlying cultural wiring, nothing. You make the decision to take or leave opportunities.

That’s it. There are many opportunities I screwed up because of my attitude, behavior, an unwillingness to compromise, or other belief systems. I own that. I don’t blame my parents, my judaism, my liberal beliefs, my unwillingness to sacrifice time with my daughter, etc.

I own my path. And when necessary, I change.

Or I blaze my own trail, and I don’t care what others think about that. Screw them. Seriously.

Queen/King or Ace

Ace Queen Gets a Nine
Ace Queen Gets a Nine

My father used to be managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News. He is still one of my top business advisors. My mom writes the country’s most syndicated astrology column, a successful entrepreneur who wrote her own rules.

I learned a lot of lessons about success and failure from both of them. Some I have taken, other things I have developed on my own, such as an undying commitment to produce revenue or opportunities for revenue.

One thing my Dad said that always stuck with me is what made a successful career:

He said it takes either being an ace or a queen/king. An ace is someone who is so damn good that you work with them no matter in spite of their personality foibles or life choices. A queen or king is someone who is able to get other people to do things, they are the manager, the person that can run a county, province or even a kingdom.

There is greater fame and glory in the ace’s role, and that’s what we see mostly online. DIYers who have forged their own path, folks like my Mom.

The money and greater impact, in my opinion, is in motivating people to do things. Get other people to move from A to B.

Great companies are not comprised of aces. They have them, but they are role players. Great companies are built by queens and kings.

Which are you, an ace or a leader? What do you think?



  • Always enjoy your posts. Favorite line today “Winning silences critics.” As for Ace or Queen, that remains to be seen. Stay tuned for further updates. My preference is Queen… :)

    • It’s true. Sometimes the only way out is up. Management is a hard skill, perhaps the hardest of all. There is good reason why these folks are so valued!

  • Queen/King for sure…I’m morphing the title :) Cheers! Kaarina

  • Great observations as always, Geoff, and wonderful validation of what I “preach” in the classroom day after day. As I tell my students time and again, leaders are the people I would cheerfully crawl through fire, brimstone, and broken glass for. They’re the ones who truly DO make a difference.

    • Exactly, because they have the courage to perform in the face of adversity. We all want to do it. It’s easier when someone can show us how!

  • this is a thoughtful post. but you didn’t answer your own question! my guess for you…is an acehole (i kid, i kid, couldn’t resist!)

    I’ve learned to stick to my core values, stay in my lane, create, and motivate. does this make me an ace, or an artist? or a queen with quirks? :)

    • I think an Ace traditionally, though more and more the leader type. I am finally getting old and patient enough to do that I think. And yes, you are an Ace.

  • Like @2423671ba5a28ca002ff20a0fbc8eb2a:disqus I want to know which you see yourself as… and also how you see me!

    • I think an Ace traditionally, though more and more the leader type. I am finally getting old and patient enough to do that I think.

  • Well.., making me think as always Geoff. The plans I have will demand me being a Leader, but the skill I need to support that would be that of an Ace. Life’s tough, huh?

    • At least you know ace comes first than become a leader, or perhaps not? Sounds interesting.

  • Being both is a great idea. Archetypes shift in importance depending on circumstances. Sometimes you meet someone you did not know was in you.

  • Bravo Geoff! Thanks for sharing your point-of-view that resonates with me…

  • Hmm.. interesting question. Think I’m more an ace (doer) now but wanting to shift more to leader (counselor, manager) role. Agree w/ you it’s hard to be both but not sure they have to be mutually exclusive. IDK think there can be exceptions – some tough-to-work-with leaders probably started as aces, which is maybe why they’re a challenge as managers? Anyway, good food for thought. FWIW.

  • Excellent article Geoff. I agree, a company needs to be run by Queens and Kings. In order to be successful, you need to know how to handle people, how to inspire and encourage them.

Comments are closed