In a recent post about how highly-paid CEOs brains are wired, we discussed what make them different from those who are not in those positions.

Some feel that those successful individuals with high-paying salaries and added perks deserve them because they’re among the few who have had the opportunity to be exposed to challenging business decisions similar to the ones they will face, and have the semantic memory to generalize from their experience. Drawing on their experience, such leaders of industry can focus clearly on the relevant aspects of ongoing challenges without being overly distracted by the individual details. When they do their job effectively, they can separate the wheat from the chaff more efficiently than their support staff. If they fail, then the boards they report to will make their own decisions, hopefully based on a collective semantic memory.

In addition to a superior semantic memory relevant to the decisions at hand, a CEO also has the challenge of communicating such decisions not only to the board but also to staff members, shareholders at public meetings, and the media when public statements are called for. When Robert Nardelli left Home Depot in early 2007, it became clear that his success at improving the company’s bottom line was not enough to overcome his challenge to communicate effectively. Where persons in lesser positions can get by with average communications skills, the CEOs of well known companies cannot afford such mediocrity-they must be superior. Rather than one brain communicating with another, the highly visible CEO must keep in mind how one brain can communicate with thousands. The brain with superior semantic memory must also have the skill of communicating with a multitude of other discerning brains. There is little room for error.

To learn more, read the revised and updated Relationship Economics paperback edition with 40 percent new content, including an all-new chapter 10 on social media and business relationships (Wiley, Feb. 2011).

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