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Mastering the Message: Leveraging the Influence of Language in Leadership with Andrea Petrone

In the fast-paced world of leadership, it’s easy to get caught up in the power and status that come with the role. Leading with humility, relating to others, and demonstrating humility can create a more positive and inclusive leadership environment.

In this episode, Performance and Executive Coach, Andrea Petrone shares his invaluable insights into the challenges and lessons of transitioning into a C-suite role, particularly the importance of mindset, humility, and clear communication.

Join us as we unpack the essential attributes of successful C-suite leaders and explore the journey of evolving into an outstanding executive.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Be humble and relatable, connect with people as a human to cultivate calm and trust
  • Change your language, change your leadership – use clear communication to inspire and empower your team
  • Own results collectively to create alignment and drive results as a unified leadership team

Things to listen for:

  • [02:30] Lightning round with Andrea
  • [09:21] Challenges around transitions into the C-Suite
  • [13:22] “Language is the only real leverage that you have as a leader”
  • [16:49] What you need to become an extraordinary CEO
  • [21:51] Andrea’s advice to his younger self
  • [25:42] Craig’s takeaways

Andrea’s Transcript:

This has been generated by AI and optimized by a human. 

[00:00:00] Craig P. Anderson: The CEO turned to the group and said, this is solid work, but I want to keep our options open. And you could feel the energy drain out of the room.

[00:00:11] Craig P. Anderson: Welcome to executive evolution. I’m Craig Anderson. After spending 25 plus years in corporate America, I learned a lot of leadership lessons the hard way I created this podcast, so you don’t have to. In today’s

[00:00:26] Craig P. Anderson: interview with Andrea Petrone, we talk about. The importance of how words matter when you are sitting in a leadership role. And in the story I began at the start of the podcast, I was part of a leadership team that had spent two days locked a conference room, working on a strategy and vision that was severely lacking in the organization because of a lack of focus and commitment After all that work was done, the team was incredibly excited about what we had accomplished. And as we sat down with the CEO at this level of excitement about this new focus and new direction, his words. Devastated team and those words were, this is really good work, but I want to keep my options open. So we’re not going to lock ourselves into this strategy.

All that work unraveled in just a matter of seconds, Our words matter as CEOs. So let’s drop in to today’s interview again with Andrea Petrone. Andrea is a top LinkedIn voice he has a performance and executive coach to CEOs and their leadership teams, a podcast host, and has a great newsletter on leadership topics. So, let’s dive right into the story of Andrea and Executive Evolution.

​ Andrea, welcome to the Executive Evolution Podcast. Glad to have you here.

Thank you so much, Craig, for inviting me. It’s a pleasure.

it’s always great to get someone who not only has been in the leadership roles, but also works with so many people in the C-suite as you do, because it’s such a different perspective for people.

[00:02:02] Andrea Petrone: It is, and it is a different ball really. So I think many people, they aspire to become a csuite leader. Some others, they probably aspire to become a CEO, but that step from being a middle manager or director to get to the csuite. It’s a massive step, not only professionally I, I would say, but also personally, you know, what’s a real impact on people to become an executive?

That’s something that we can definitely discuss about.

[00:02:29] Craig P. Anderson: Great. Well, before we dive into that, I always like to start out where we can get to know you a bit with a few questions in the lightning round. So if you’re ready to jump in, what is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:42] Andrea Petrone: Right. For someone like us Craig, as a coaches, there are definitely so many books, but if I pick one, because I think has really shaped my way how a coach leaders is definitely the Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni, and I always confused because he wrote two books.

One is for the teams and one’s for the COE, the Five Temptations of the CEOI think is such an interesting book because he explained very. Naturally, easily, you know, what are the typical pitfall sos know, where they’re getting to the role and what normally they tend to do.

Some, most of the time unconsciously, the, element of status, power, you know, harmony, certainty, being vulnerable, all the things that I see every single day. So I think it’s interesting to use that as a reference. It’s a ma massive, book. I think it’s my suggestion to all your audience.

[00:03:31] Craig P. Anderson: and it’s great. And it’s so interesting that with the diversity of CEOs and the diversity of ways you can be a CEO in roles, that those temptations can be such a core across every, you know, kind of across everyone like that. It’s fascinating.

[00:03:45] Andrea Petrone: I think it’s a temptation to be in a position of power, that’s why I’m saying they’re probably natural to some extent. They are. Normally, they’re working. unconsciously on people, but sometimes as I always say, the C-suite leaders, they don’t really have such a high level of awareness.

What they’re really missing is understanding how they’re showing up in organization. So what might look great and natural to them might not necessarily be nice or great, you know, in the same way for employees, which is really, really an important point.

[00:04:16] Craig P. Anderson: Yes. Great. Next question. Who is the leader,you most admire when you look out into the CEO world? And I know you talked to a lot of ’em, so that may be a weird question, but who do you most admire as the CEO.

[00:04:31] Andrea Petrone: for interviewing really, really amazing CEOs from all over the world in my podcast, the World Class Leader Show, and I’m a lot of data points and references along with, of course, some of my clients. I would say there are two people probably. There are not necessarily.

Popular, like,

the CEOs of, you know, the the top 10 fortune companies. But I don’t think, honestly, that that’s really what matters. You know, because by experience we know there are some amazing CEOs that’re not necessarily popular or they’re not in the media all the time.

For me, there are two people. One is Lorenzo Simonelli is also fellow Italian, but he is also CEO of Becca Yos, one of the larger energy companies. He has been former. Very close to become the CEO of General Electric after Inal. So I was on my podcast, amazing guy, great personality. That’s the kind of CEOI really would like to see more out there.

And the other I would say, is one of my client and is the CEO of a gas company in the uk. And it manifests really all the traits and attributes that I believe they will be the most important attributes for the future of CEOs. it’s very interesting time, Craig, in my opinion.

‘ ’cause I see a really a different direction where the success CEOs, they are going. They’re demonstrating completely different traits than the traditional CEOs. So this guy, Loren and others, I can see they are actually shaping the future of that role. So these are a couple of names. So these, this guy name is Mark Wild.

[00:05:59] Craig P. Anderson: Great, and we’ll drop those in as well. Last question is, in 10 words or less, how do you define leadership?

[00:06:06] Andrea Petrone: part of my work is also working for an amazing consulting firm in the us and by working with them, one thing they always. Told me and the clients, and really, resonate with me is leadership is really altering the status quo. If you think about. That’s what leadership is about.

To me, So the real leaders are those people that can, they want and they really going to make an impact on the future of the company and future society. But the only way of doing it is just really altering the status quo.

Otherwise, what’s gonna happen to the company is really what happened until that day. So that’s to me, through leadership.

[00:06:43] Craig P. Anderson: just really the ability to kind of shape and drive where things are going. and it’s so hard because today. I think for leaders at all levels, there’s so many different ways that information is coming into you and expectations and the environment keeps changing so quickly, and maybe that’s just our present perspective, but I think it’s a big challenge to sit in that seat right now more so than ever.

[00:07:06] Andrea Petrone: It is. And I honestly, Craig, I don’t believe people, they really appreciate the pressure and the stress the CEOs are facing, and that has been always a very challenging role, but considering all the level of uncertainty and complexity that is really happening, their role. It really has changed a lot.

So they have more pressure from the market, but also they have more pressure from the shareholders. But also, if you consider some interesting data, the average tenure of A CEO has now decreased 3, 4 years. It used to be five six. So you can understand all things, you know, how they are gonna play at all, into their life.

But again, one of the biggest mis misconception I would say is people think that, know, being a CEO is. A lot of great money, great salaries, you know, easy life. Well, I really like them to come and see the work that we are doing, you know, as coaches the, with the Cs. It’s a very different picture.

Very different.

[00:08:02] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And a lot of times I, when I talk with people about it is if that’s the reason why you wanna be a CEO. That’s a mistake because the amount of pressure and expectation and even isolation, I find a lot in leaders. there’s no one around you who doesn’t have some sort of agenda, and that’s where people like you and I in the coaching world can be that person for them, which I think is a very different experience for them.

[00:08:25] Andrea Petrone: Yeah, to the extent I think what a coach can do for A CEO besides traditional coaching and developments, some of them, they need it, but most of them probably, they don’t necessarily need it. But what they’re really looking for is the sounding board. Someone they can talk to, because as you said before, they can’t really share everything with the organization.

So they have some massive challenges and pain points and fears that they have, but they can’t really share it. For a good reason, right? Because you don’t want to bring negativity or you don’t want to scare people. But at the same time, you are living with this and if there is no one you can talk to, you’re gonna bring this, you know, unfortunately, or keep it in your mind that will has massive impact on your health.

Which is not surprise why many CEOs actually leave their job because they are silently suffering for burnout and stress. Just something that really we need to consider, we need to consider, especially from a performance standpoint.

[00:09:21] Craig P. Anderson: Yes. Absolutely. so that’s a good transition into kind of that experience of people in the c-suite. You mentioned earlier, people that go from that manager role into the C-Suite role. for those newer people into the c-suite, what are the challenges that they’re facing with that transition?

[00:09:42] Andrea Petrone: I would say number one, Craig, I dunno what, what is your experience? I’m very happy to hear what you say and what you see is confidence. Number one is confidence. Because every single time that you’re elevating your game, there is always, you know, an element of. Confidence at stake, right?

So you feel like you are doing something different, something new with more responsibilities. And I can tell you, having coached a lot of teams as well, leadership teams, I can definitely tell you that there are so many Csuite leaders. They’re there and actually just looking, watching and see whether, okay, can I just stay in my comfort zone here?

Because you know, every single time There is pressure to step up to elevate their own game. I can see how they, they really struggle. So confident is a huge, huge, thing for everyone, but particularly for the C-Suite executive. And again, another misconception from employees. You are an executive, you are a c-suite.

You know you have the answer. You know how to do this. Really far away from the truth. It is not unfortunately how it works. So they need to create and build that confidence by actually leading in that role, which is not, again, it’s not a cap of tea, it’s not as easy as maybe people think. And the other thing I would say is the fact that some of them, they don’t necessarily disconnect with their previous job.

There’s still too much connected with expertise that they have because again, that is another comfort zone. So that’s very typical in commercial roles, right? So when you see people that being really, successful as a sales director or vice president, and now they’ve become maybe chief commercial officer or chief sales officers, and, they start to, I wouldn’t say micromanage to that extent.

But they tend to go into the nitty and gritty, you know, into the weeds in order to understand the business, how it’s going. That’s not helping empower their own team, but also not helping them to focus what we call, I call the team one. The team one is the leadership team, and team two is your own team.

Look, I don’t think you have to make a choice. have, you need to lead both. themes, but sometimes I see equity other just. Working with a team, one with the executive and disregarded own people, or actually they’re just working and managing their own, own people because they, think that that is needed and they complete disregarded leadership team.

It’s a very interesting balance, and again, it’s not something very easy to do.

[00:12:05] Craig P. Anderson: No, and I’m so glad you said that because I see a lot of dysfunctional leadership teams. When the group still identifies with the, vertical, and that’s their people. That’s who they have to protect. That’s where their priorities are. And they don’t make that transition to actually, it’s horizontal to the leadership team, and that’s kind of their first team.

That’s a real struggle, I think, because you talked about the confidence and what’s more confident than doing what you’re comfortable with, that you excelled in. Right? That’s in under stress. They wanna revert to what’s comfortable, and that’s a real challenge.

[00:12:43] Andrea Petrone: It’s a real Challenge, and I, I don’t think everyone is ready to do it because again, with the title comes, the status comes, the power comes, the money comes all the good things. But then demonstrating that you are, uh, going to step up your game again, that is a completely different, different matter.

And some executive, to be fair, they’re not necessarily ready for that challenge. by the way, I don’t want to spend too much words on this, but then we have also to consider environment, the culture that in place, because it might be either an enabler or catalyzer for that transition or actually could be a roadblock.

So these are other dynamics that come, you know, in play.

[00:13:22] Craig P. Anderson: I wonder sometimes if people really realize when they aspire to that role, what they’re stepping into, and how do you see them sometimes managing the level of influence they have where their words suddenly means so much more. The casual phrase has much more impact than it used to have.

Do How do you see them struggling with that piece of the transition?

[00:13:44] Andrea Petrone: look, I do believe language is the only real. Leverage that you have as a leader. Language and conversations, there is nothing else. So the only way to demonstrate leadership is through language. So you, you hit the nail here. I think too many conversations at the executive level. I. They’re cheap, they’re not really moving things forward.

So from one hand, I think they become more aware of the words they’re using, whether they’re really making an impact or not. But on the other hand, they don’t necessarily already to change the way they talk, they might tend to go, To what they did before, you know, communicating the same way, which is not really what the employees expected.

So employees, what they expect from c-Suite is equity with clarity. It’s clarity, clear direction, not necessarily orders, hopefully no orders, but at least clear directions. And again, that’s not like, a plug and play that doesn’t work in a way. So most of my work I do with Coach is about language.

It’s how you, I’m gonna change your language and having different conversation. ’cause that’s what people are looking for.

[00:14:49] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. one of the things I’ve found is helpful with some leadership teams when they have their meetings and they’re making decisions, is to agree to what the talking points are when they walk out of that room. So everybody is stating the same things because if their message comes out of a meeting at different, and they’re hitting the wrong points, or they show some disagreement with the plan.

That’s really damaging to what they’re trying to do as a leadership team.

[00:15:15] Andrea Petrone: And I’ve seen that so many times, Craig, when there is not that level of alignment with executives. and I think probably the main reason is. To me, my experience is when there is a lack of collective ownership or results. which is, by the way, another major pitfall, you know, when you work in a, in a leadership team is going silos, right?

So every single executive going, you know, and protecting is turf protecting, as you said before, your people. that’s not helping. So then the leadership team really becomes like just a summary of individual contributions. What I’m talking about here is completely changing the game is more about how can we own the results together?

So how can we being together and that requires tough decisions, alignment sometimes, even if you don’t agree, but you know, going in one single direction. Well, what I see is sometimes, you know, when you have these great sessions with these equities, sometimes they say, yes, agree, let’s do it. But then after the summit or the workshop, whatever.

They unfortunately fall into the same drop of say, yeah, that’s what we said, but you know what, here we’re gonna do this. slightly different. So you’re right, that is a massive, massive problem.

[00:16:29] Craig P. Anderson: Great. Well, That’s kind of all the struggles. Now, we probably never get to perfection as CEOs and leaders, but we do get experience and we do get more comfortable in the role. So when people have made that transition, what are the big lessons that you see that they’ve learned over time that are making them more effective?

[00:16:49] Andrea Petrone: I’ve been writing in now probably it’s a month, you know, my new book about. What do you need to become an extraordinary CEOs? It’s really world class CEOs, the old point is about how you’re gonna start changing the way how you think as a CEO. In other words, it’s all about mindset.

I strongly believe that. See, it’s only about mindset I think we focus too much on behaviors, actions. Talking, which is great, but that is just the end of something like an internal process of these people. They really finally understand how they can shift their mindset and think differently.

And by the way, that is applicable to the same conversation we had so far. Even when you move from director to csuite, what you really need is not necessarily a different language, which is important as we said, but it definitely is a different mindset because. mindset drives performance. If you really want to become a high performer in your role, either you’re a c-suite as equity or a CEO, you have to shift your mindset.

So I think to me, one of the major lessons working in, in interviewing CEOs with all the data points I have is really is theios. They’re really good in shifting their mindset. They start to see what they didn’t see before because again, a promotion from C-Suite to co. Another risk that we see is cos will exactly as we said before, they will still operate as if they were.

The former CEO or the CFO. The CEO requires a completely different mindset in terms of what future you want to create, what different behaviors and culture you want to create for the organization, what bold decision you have to make, how you’re gonna create your own team. There are so many new challenges that you face that’s from an organizational standpoint.

From a more personal standpoint, as we said before, you start to be really much isolated. So you need to deal with your own personality and your own challenges in a completely different way. again, I think for a C-suite as equity, it’s easier. It’s definitely easier because if you have a good team that you’re working with, you have really peers, buddies to work with, especially if you build such a strong connections.

If you’re a CEO, it. You are still part of that team. But look, we know, so CEO is still, Chairing that team. So yes, it can empower a conversation, but sometimes he has to make decisions. So again, it’s another challenge. So every single step in organization, has I think its own challenge.

[00:19:23] Craig P. Anderson: Yes, and, and something that triggered when you talked about that, and I’ve seen this a bit of where you have kind of the group of c-suite executives and then one of them is tapped to become the CEOW, which is a very different change in transition. What have. You’ve seen makes that transition successful because that’s a tremendous amount of pressure, I would imagine.

[00:19:43] Andrea Petrone: Yeah. First of all, they need to re recreate the relationship they have with existing as equities. you know better me, Craig. So when you get promoted to the CEO. People, they need to, they, they will never see you again as a peer. They will see you as a CEO for a good reason.

whatever you created before, in terms of relationship, in my personal experience. It’s not working, it doesn’t work anymore. You have to recreate that condition, that connection between people, because otherwise people, they’re gonna start to see you in a very different way. So you can be, again, maybe a friend or you can be operating in the same way.

You can’t tolerate things from other equity just because you were one of them before. You have to make tough choices. So I think what is really helping CEOs is, Understanding that is all about them now. They need to make this decision. they’re gonna be tough decision.

They’re gonna make tough decisions. So that is just one of the things. But the other I would say is really understanding that your world matters and how you behave matters even more. So. The best CEO out there to me have a, such a very high level of integrity. So they do what they say. To me that is an important element of a CO.

If you want to drive a better culture, a culture that can drive performance, you need to be the first demonstrating that you are happy to change as a part of your own journey. And sometimes CEOs don’t do that. You know, they just point fingers and ask people, I’m there, I’m, you know, at the top.

You guys change. And then I want to see results.

No, that’s not the way out to do it. So it’s really reshaping completely. their way of being. To me, it’s more about the way of being rather than the way of leading. It’s more important the way of being first.

[00:21:29] Craig P. Anderson: that all ties back to what you talked about was mindset is so crucial because if you’re going to make tough decisions, you’re going to be willing to change how you show up and how you speak and how you represent it all comes back to getting that mindset established early and often and, and that, growth mindset, I think is what we’re talking about in many ways here, is to have that. Yeah.

So I always like to kind of wrap up and talk about what is the single most important piece of advice you think would be helpful to that person in that first C-Suite role. What is the one thing that if they can grasp ahold of will make them the most successful?

[00:22:07] Andrea Petrone: Look, all my book is about. The term of humanity. Being human. Being human as a leader, to me is really underrated. We think that for us, being human is just being ourself. Being human is more than being ourself is leading with empathy, with emotion, intelligence, and most important, with humility.

I’ve been there before I became a CO when I was 35. I felt in my career, Craig Invincible. Because everything was happening to me in the right way. You know, fast track, career promotion, And I had a very fascinating international career, so everything really happened. nothing could stop me.

But then one thing, one event stopped that growth and from one day to another, I became. Human so I could definitely lose and fail and I was not prepared for that. I was not prepared mentally to fail. It took me months to appreciate, to understand. I was actually, I. An opportunity, a possibility that happens in your life.

And what I did, I completely recreated, rebuild my own career, my story, et cetera, and I became who I’m right now. I’m very happy with myself, with my progress, but more importantly, what I learned from that lesson is. Humility is your main driver. So if you approach the C-suite executive with a humility that you can fail, you can make mistakes, you can actually admit mistakes, you can be wrong, et cetera, you’re gonna create such an amazing atmosphere around you.

And yeah, I think it’s gonna also make you life as an executive little bit easier because you, you know, when you are yourself, you know, you really act as a human beings. You know, you’re just, I think you’re enjoying better your own journey. So that pressure, what you said before, the expectations, I wouldn’t say they fade away, but you deal with them in a very different way.

So that’s, to me, has been the major learning.

[00:24:07] Craig P. Anderson: Love that. I love just the idea of being human is such a way to lead and, and that humility that it sounds like you kind of hit that moment where humility had to kick in and that really made you appreciate, wow, it’s not always gonna be fast. It’s not always gonna be going, my, the winds will blow my direction, and how am I going to act?

When I hit that wall as a CEO.

[00:24:28] Andrea Petrone: Exactly right.

[00:24:29] Craig P. Anderson: Well, I really enjoyed our conversation and I know the listeners will as well, if they wanna get more connected with you, if they wanna follow you, where are the best places for them to find you?

[00:24:39] Andrea Petrone: I think the best platform is LinkedIn. So I have quite good amount of followers. I write every day about CEO’s, mindset, performance. People are always very much engaged, so I think it’s an opportunity to connect with me, understanding my idea, my philosophy in life.

I think that would be. That place. But then if you want to actually understand a little bit more my, my work and what I do with other CEOs, et cetera, I would say two places. So one is, as I said, the World Class Leader Show is my podcast where interview global CEOs. We are on all a audio platform, but also we launch recently, you know, the YouTube channel.

So you’re gonna see some of the amazing global CEOs interviewing be vulnerable saying their stories. I think you’re gonna love it. Also, I have a newsletter, where I actually take all, you know, all the lessons, takeaways, I sum everything together and I packaged. So that’s another opportunity.

[00:25:27] Craig P. Anderson: Fantastic. We’ll get links for those in the show notes for the podcast. Andrea, thank you so much for being here today and sharing the story of executives evolution. We appreciate it.

[00:25:36] Andrea Petrone: you so much, Craig, for inviting me and for the great questions.

[00:25:42] Craig P. Anderson: as Always on executive evolution. I like to pull together my takeaways from the interview and focus on the three. Leadership attributes of confidence, confidence, and calm. And in our today in the area of confidence, Andrea really did a great job talking about the importance of mindset.

It’s Everything when you were sitting in the C suite and especially when you were the CEO of the business. So every day, take opportunities to develop a growth mindset so that you will have the confidence that grows with that. And as you sit down in the leadership role and all the tension and challenges that brings to the table, that mindset is what will carry you through and keep you confident, even in the toughest of times.

In the area of competence, almost a little bit of a reverse from when we talk about competence, our area of competence, when we move into a C suite role tends to be what we did. That’s where we feel most competent. If we were in sales or operations or finance and under we want to revert. Back to that, but we have to resist that draw go into the areas that are uncharted for us, where we have to learn more and work harder and understand how we fit into the whole business. So much of sitting in that C suite role is looking horizontally across the business, not vertically down into your area of responsibility.

And then finally, in the area of calm, I really appreciate how we just brought down. His advice to be a human.Becomfortable with who you are. Relate to people as a human.Obviously you are the leader. Your words matter. Your level of confidence matters. But if you lead from being a human that gives you a great center. And from that will come calm.

Remember you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader. All it takes is to develop your confidence, confidence, and calm.I’ll see you next time on Executive Evolution.