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Be a Fearless Leader: Five Negotiation Tips from Top CEOs

Be a Fearless Leader: Five Negotiation Tips from Top CEOs

By: Betty Liu, author of Work Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need to Know to Get Ahead (Wiley, 2013)

1. Learn How to Make Fast Decisions . . . and Reverse Them if You Get New Information.

Every single one of the CEOs I spoke with is in that seat because he or she is a good decision maker. This is probably one of the most important skills any good leader possesses.

Equally important is knowing when a decision you’ve made, based on new information, is bad and reversing it just as quickly.

This is where people tend to get in trouble. Their egos get wrapped up in a decision and reversing it makes the person feel weak and vulnerable. It’s tough to admit when you’re wrong.

Clearly you want to have more right than wrong decisions, but a hallmark of good leadership is knowing when something is not working and changing course.

2. Have a Good Team Around You.
Every CEO has a close group of people around them, such as their senior management team, friends, or mentors. I noted before that it’s a lonely job but it’s not a job that’s conducted in isolation.

It’s important as you develop your career that you have a team of people you trust and are looking out for you. They don’t necessarily have to be at your company and most times, they are not.

They’re not always senior to you and they may even be outside your own profession. They may not necessarily be more successful than you but they possess certain skills or knowledge you don’t have.

3. Information Is Key.
This is not about hoarding information. It’s about being a voracious consumer of information.

This is easy for me to say because I ’m in the business of information. We exchange and report on information all the time. Part of my job is to read everything and stay well informed.

Warren Buffett can sit in his office for hours reading annual reports and financial documents. Mario Gabelli walks around with a briefcase always brimming with research reports he wants to read.

Every time he sits down in the studio chair with me he’s got piles of papers around him, ready for referral. I start my day reading three to four newspapers.

4. Have a Sense of Humor.
If I’m asked to give a talk or emcee an event, the first thing I think of is: Who is the audience and what jokes am I going to tell?

All the CEOs I talked to possessed a great sense of humor, some funnier than others. They all understand an element in developing a relationship is laughing together.

I have a very difficult time connecting myself to someone who can’t get a joke. I try to relate to an audience by telling a few opening lines. If I can’t come up with many on my own, I borrow from the Kings of Late Night Comedy.

5. Always Be Moving.
Perhaps the single biggest difference between those who make it to the very top and those who languish is that the former are always moving. They don’t stop.

When I say moving, I don’t necessarily mean physically, although you do have to actually be doing things.

I’ll give an example but I won’t use this person’s name. A senior executive I know left his job. The people he knew whispered about him, said he wasn’t ready to leave yet, and that he hadn’t prepared well. It was going to be difficult for him to start another business. I talked to him occasionally and every time I did, he mentioned this or that meeting he was attending, this or that discussion, this or that place he was flying off to.

For obvious reasons, he couldn’t disclose details. I got the sense he was spending his days talking to people, meeting, exchanging ideas, just moving around a lot to figure out the next step. It was hard to tell if he was making progress or running around in circles.

A few months later, he landed a big job and he sounded relieved on the phone. You could tell he felt he had something to prove and he proved it. Even at the stage when you’re at the top, when you believe you’ve made it, you’re still hustling. That never stops, so long as you want to stay in the game.

As long as you’re moving, you’re going somewhere. Once you stop, you stay.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Work Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need To Know to Get Ahead by Betty Liu.  Copyright (c) 2014 by Betty Liu. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.


Author Bio:
Betty Liu
is author of Work Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need to Know to Get Ahead (Wiley, 2013) and Editor-at-Large for Bloomberg Television. She is the host of “In the Loop with Betty Liu,” a daily morning program providing the most comprehensive coverage of the headlines and major events set to shape the business day ahead. Liu also hosts “In the Loop At the Half with Betty Liu” on Bloomberg radio, airing weekdays at noon, and is an ABC News contributor. Betty is also coauthor of Age Smart: Discovering the Fountain of Youth at Midlife and Beyond, published in 2006. For more information on Betty, go to

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