Dr. Jeffrey Litwin is a senior executive with proven abilities as both a CEO and a COO in both the public and private sectors. In those roles, he participated in the acquisition of over twenty-five companies and the sales of companies that totaled more than $5 billion. Today, he is president of Litwin Consulting, LLC, an internationally renowned executive coaching and strategic advisory firm. 

Dr. Litwin’s true passion is mentoring high-potential individuals, sales teams, and global and domestic management teams to help them increase teamwork, productivity, profitability, and personal prosperity. He is the author of Corporate Streetfighter, which is a practical guide to being successful in business and life. 

Dr. Jeffrey Litwin’s book Corporate Streetfighter is an excellent guide to obtaining greater success while taking control of your business and personal life. To learn more about Dr. Litwin’s coaching and strategic advisory services you can go to his website at www.corporatestreetfighter.com

Russ Alan Prince: What is a Corporate Streetfighter?

Jeffrey Litwin: A corporate streetfighter is willing to do what it takes to WIN. Notice I said win, not prove they are right. Winning can mean getting yourself a promotion, a raise, or just getting the things done that will make both you and your company shine. 

Corporate streetfighters have confidence in themselves and the guts and determination to see things through even when it is hard to do so. If you are already a corporate executive, it means being a leader whose team is excited to follow and control the culture, mission, and strategy of your business to put it on a path to even greater success.  

In my book, Corporate Streetfighter, I share the insights and wisdom won throughout my thirty-five-plus-year career, starting as a physician who knew little about business and transitioning into a successful business executive who is now teaching the next generation of leaders to take control of their lives and careers by becoming a Corporate Streetfighter.

Prince: What is the secret to managing up?

Litwin: The concept of managing up is one that most people don’t think about and certainly do not understand the importance of. To be clear, by managing up I do not mean that people should be brown-nosing their boss. To truly manage up you need to understand how your boss thinks, what your boss’s goals are, and to support your boss in achieving those goals. This requires you to be part psychologist, part chess player, and to do your homework before speaking.

Your boss must see you as an essential part of their organization and as a person that they want to move up as they move up the corporate ladder. Your boss must know they can depend on you and by gaining their trust your boss will also be more willing to listen when you respectfully disagree with any strategies or actions. Ideally, you should become a co-pilot in the development of those plans. If there is a disagreement, the boss is still the boss and you should support the plan they come up with 100% once a decision is made.

An executive once pointed out to me that giving in when there are disagreements requires a person to sublimate their ego and that was too difficult for them to do. I agree, it is difficult and that is why I started our conversation by saying that winning and being right are not the same thing. Would you rather be right and watch someone else get the promotion and raise you deserve because they supported the boss and you did not? Of course, not. Keep winning until you are the person who is making the decisions!

Prince: If someone wants to be CEO, what does he or she have to do?

Litwin: There are a lot of factors that play into a person becoming a CEO, some of which may be out of the candidate’s control. However, there are three key factors that are within a potential CEO’s control that should be top of mind. 

First, let it be known that you want the job and how you will take the company to the next level if you become the CEO. In Corporate Streetfighter, I give several examples of the importance of speaking up to get what you want, rather than hoping that someone will recognize you while you remain silent.

Second, CEOs are paid to grow the revenue of the company. Whether your company is public or private revenue growth brings the greatest return on investment. If you have CEO aspirations, when the opportunity arises, be prepared to show the Board of Directors your strategy to take the company to the next level and how you plan to implement that plan. I have found there are more excellent strategies than there are excellent implementation plans. One does not work without the other.

Third, demonstrating strong leadership is essential. The people in the company must believe that you will make the company more successful than it is today and they should want to stay with the company to make that happen. They need to see you as the person who will get them to the promised land. No one can do this alone and you need to be sure that your most talented employees will stay with you to get the job done.

Prince: What’s a major downside to being CEO?

Litwin: Being a CEO is a lonely job. You have to make difficult decisions involving the lives and livelihood of your staff and you can be challenged with the stress of facing extremely difficult decisions that can decide the very survival of your company.  

Do not take the job if you are just looking for a big salary or an ego boost. If you are going to apply for a CEO job, be prepared for a level of stress and accountability that you have never experienced before.  

I was a COO several times before becoming a CEO. I essentially was running the business with all the operational headaches that come with it and felt that it would be an easy step to become a CEO. I learned, that the work may have been easier being a CEO than a COO, but the pressure of being THE PERSON responsible for the personal and financial success of so many employees and shareholders can wear you down if you don’t have the right type of personality to take it on.

RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine (pw-mag.com) and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius (hnwgenius.com). He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.