Intrinsic Traits of Successful CEOs

The qualities that make a great leader have long been a subject of interest for the modern workplace.

It never seems to go out of fashion because companies are always looking for ways to identify next-generation talent and invest in their long-term leadership pipeline.  After all, every top-performing CEO started somewhere, right?

Because CEOs serve as the face of a company, their intrinsic characteristics and hard-won practices have a direct effect on a company’s employer brand. While it’s somewhat of a given that most CEOs have a strong work ethic and a high level of industry expertise, it turns out there are other important qualities that the most successful CEOs have in common, too.

Here are 10 of the most important intrinsic traits top CEOs bring to the job – and why these traits are integral to the success of the CEO as well as the company:

1. Values a positive culture

Successful CEOs see a positive company culture as the cornerstone of their business strategy. They understand that company culture has a powerful downstream effect on everything related to employees, including engagement, performance, and retention.To that end, the most impactful CEOs demonstrate a personal connection with the culture, which helps cultivate trust among the organization, establish shared values that foster a sense of community, and attract the best talent and candidate referrals.

2. Brings everything back to the company mission

Top CEOs are dedicated to articulating and championing the mission of the company, both within and outside of the organization. These leaders have a knack for keeping everybody within the organization focused on that mission and strive to ensure a sense of purpose is woven into every single role.

3. Models transparency

Companies with leaders who are open, honest, and communicative with their employees are ultimately more productive, innovative, and trustworthy. Especially during times of difficulty, top CEOs know that they must make it a priority to keep their workforce informed in order to minimize insecurity and build trust. At all times, however, the best CEOs naturally nurture employee engagement by openly discussing difficult topics, by not just communicating information, but by being transparent about the purpose behind their decision and how it relates to the overall goals and vision of the company.

4. Communicates clearly

The most effective CEOs are those who are consistent with their communication, both in frequency and style. They are able to express their views and expectations using direct, succinct, language that is easily understandable. They also communicate with a focus on who the audience is and will adjust their approach in order to ensure the information is delivered effectively.

CEOs who take the time to monitor employee feedback and respond to Glassdoor reviews not only demonstrate a desire and willingness to communicate, they offer a unique perspective about the organization and overall vision that is attractive to both current and potential talent. This practice enables them to proactively surface issues and report back on strategies to address them.

5. Is open to learning

The best CEOs exhibit a passion for knowledge and demonstrate a genuine curiosity. They don’t pretend to have all the answers and engage in a continuous learning process where they are always striving to gather new information. These leaders also know how to ask masterful questions and choose to proactively seek out different perspectives, taking time to consider all aspects before making significant decisions.

6. Is an active listener

A good CEO is one that engages in active listening. They listen to people with great attention and sincerity, with the goal of understanding the different perspectives. they don’t interrupt and acknowledge what is being said, which helps to build trust and forge better relationships. A CEO who is willing to truly listen and is open to new ideas will cultivate an environment where people will want to work and help the company attract and retain top tier talent.

7. Nurtures other great leaders

The best CEOs take a systematic approach toward their employees, examining the roles they play, what they can achieve, and what changes to make in order to maximize their potential. They look for ways to promote from within in order to provide new career opportunities and advancement, with an eye for matching talent with roles in order to create the most value.

At the same time, top leaders also look to bring on new executives who can grow and empower teams within the organization. These CEOs also possess the ability to read people and can adapt their management style accordingly in order to set their people up for success.

8. Prioritizes diversity, equity, & inclusion

Excellent CEOs endeavor to have diverse teams, which has been shown to improve decision-making quality. They recognize that diversity is essential to the long-term success and vitality of the business, and prioritize D&I efforts.

These leaders work to actively build leadership accountability and capabilities for D&I by establishing policies that encourage inclusive working environments and provide diverse talent with the support systems they need to be successful within the organization. They also understand that diverse teams require different management skills and thus the need for additional training and mentorship.

9. Builds resilience

Successful CEOs possess resilience. They are perceptive and know how to handle themselves in any situation, good or bad. They strive to overcome challenges without destructive behavior or hurting others, and work to address adversity in a positive, productive manner. Resilient leaders also have foresight to be prepared for challenges when they arise, anticipate potential future challenges and how to address them.

10. Inspires others 

The best leaders are those who demonstrate passion for their work. This quality is both infectious and inspiring, and CEOs that are highly committed to their goals inspire the rest of the company to work toward achieving their desired vision. Passion helps leaders to instill motivation in their employees, ultimately elevating productivity.

When faced with challenges, employees will look to their CEO as a guide for how to respond to the situation. Those who can inspire their employees, especially during difficult times, to work on achieving the company mission and goals are the true stand-outs.

We’ve yet to successfully crack the code of what makes a CEO excel at her job, but this list is a good place to start. CEOs who possess these intrinsic traits have the highest likelihood of making a positive impact on their peers, managers, and employees and contributing to a powerful, positive employer brand.

By Glassdoor Team, June 15, 2021.

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