Following our big SEVEN LEADERSHIP VIRTUES
, I did a rough count over the weekend and estimated that I have worked with upwards of 200 CEOs over the past 22 years. Almost all of them spoke, at one time or another, about what made a great CEO
– sometimes expressing this modestly (“How can I be more effective?”) while others in a much more grandiose way (“I want to be great.”)
And so, I have pulled together the characteristics I have observed in the very best CEOs. Nobody has all of them, but the truly exceptional CEOs tend to have many.
Characteristics Of A Great CEO
- Thrive in turbulent times and have a very high tolerance of ambiguity; managing it with philosophical contemplation, scientific trial and error, and/or entrepreneurial aplomb.
- Are attracted to the unknown and enjoy exploring how and why things work.
- Are fascinated by what they do; yet endlessly curious; prepared to follow just to see where it goes.
- Think it is okay to be uncertain; see it as a fact of life that they have to navigate and thrive in; are comfortable with discomfort.
- Are ‘systems thinkers’, ready to read the play in any situation and connect seemingly unrelated issues.
- Take a long-term view and accept that uncertainty will ebb and flow, in cycles.
- Take time to read, think, reflect and talk to others to detect emerging ideas and trends.
- Are confident making decisions with incomplete information that may move their organisation into uncharted territory.
- Are at ease working without a safety net.
- Have large doses of business acumen.
- Are fluid ‘broad scanning thinkers’, who understand how a business operates and constantly think about how it will play out in the future.
- Put energy into finding solutions to problems rather than wallowing in the problem.
- Truly love what they do and want other to feel likewise.
- Can take complicated ideas and help people to understand where the organisation is going.
- Can identify and attack the critical few actions that need to be done and shift to a different set of actions quickly.
- Provide absolutely clarity of direction and roles.
- Quickly build a high performing and cohesive leadership team.
- Great CEOs have the big seven leadership virtues is spades; kindness, humility, curiosity, authenticity, courage, determination and discipline.