Learning & Development

Top traits of highly effective CEOs

There’s a reason they’re called chief executive officers. These men and women are the leaders of a company, the mighty general whose decisions go a long way toward determining an organization’s long-term success or defeat.

The behavior of CEOs sets a precedent that trickles downward, an example for employees and managers alike to follow. Though no two CEOs are the same, there are certain traits all successful CEOs share. It’s good to take these traits into account when deciding who you choose to be the CEO of your business simulation team.

These are the traits that put the “chief” in CEO:

The not so common traits
In order to effectively map the shared behaviors of many high-level executives, Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) surveyed 3,700 such individuals from U.S. and Europe-based countries, including 134 chief executives. Of the 60 common traits tendered in the study, researchers identified the nine most crucial, which they grouped together into three umbrella categories:

  • Team building
  • Forward thinking
  • Intrepidness

RRA also noted that CEOs must quite often engage in what is called paradoxical behavior. For instance, an attribute called “measured emotion” meant that the CEO “displays intensity/emotion but maintains control.”

“Teams need to be rewarded when they succeed and offered guidance when they fail.”

Building better teams

Effective CEOs are able to evaluate a team and determine its respective skills and compatibility. As an extension of that, CEOs rely on the perspective of others but take into consideration the motivations and limitations of those perspectives. While weighing these factors is important, CEOs understand ultimately the decision is theirs alone. Team success often requires a leader to exercise control, such as helping team members understand the implications of their decisions or how conflict can be avoided. To that end, charisma is necessary in order to draw people in and further assure them the right decisions are being made. There’s also the matter of cultivating staff morale. Namely, teams need to be rewarded when they succeed and offered guidance and encouragement when they fail.

Thinking for the long term

The CEO may not be a soothsayer, but they need to provide a vision of the future. That means understanding the company’s history including successes and setbacks. It also means understanding where the company is today and illustrating a realistic future state of the company.

When it comes to planning ahead, the best CEOs understand the need for patience and timing. Additionally, when things don’t necessarily go as planned, the most successful CEOs are able to communicate this to their staff and revamp plans accordingly. Plotting for the future also requires a certain optimism that is decidedly upbeat but still grounded in reality as to not over-inflate workers’ expectations.

The bravest of the brave

Being intrepid means being adventurous and bold. CEOs should be able to meet challenges enthusiastically, whether it’s a staffing crisis or plans for expansion. This emotional energy can then elevate the team’s mood, giving it the momentum to surge onward with a new project.

CEOs should also be able to act and make decisions with unmatched firmness. However, being intrepid doesn’t mean being reckless, and CEOs need to be able to think ahead to consider every option before moving forward with a final decision. This careful consideration shouldn’t paralyze the decision-making process; it should serve as another step in the adventure that is the business.

While these traits may seem distant to many, they aren’t innate but rather developed over time through experience. American companies spend $14B on Leadership Development programs every year. This number alone should force us to recognize the value businesses put on great leadership.

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