HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Three sets of traits to look for in spotting successful chief executives
What are the attributes that separate successful CEOs from others?
We all know the stereotypes: great CEOs are extroverted. They’re self-promoting. They’re risk takers. But are these stereotypes true? And which attributes separate successful CEOs from others?
Best-in-class CEOs stand out in three ways:
1. They show a greater sense of purpose and mission, and they demonstrate passion and urgency. These traits often manifest themselves as intensity, impatience and an eagerness to move forward as well as a strong sense of ownership and immersion in activities. Researchers at McKinsey recently published related observations pertaining to new CEOs. They asserted that the worst thing new CEOs can do is "sit on their hands". The best-performing CEOs "move boldly and swiftly to transform their companies". This doesn’t mean making decisions and actions that are overly spontaneous or impulsive, but it does mean valuing efficiency and speed in analyses and when acting on strategy.
2. They value substance and going straight to the core of the issue. They have an ability to rise above the details and understand the larger picture and context. They have a keen sense of priorities as they think and act — an ability to separate the signal from the noise. Great CEOs have a nose for what are the most significant issues, challenges, threats and opportunities facing an organisation.
3. They have a greater focus on the organisation, outcomes and results and others than on themselves. They know what they don’t know and have an ability to be open-minded, seek additional information and actively learn. This notion of a relatively modest CEO is counterintuitive for many.
(Adapted from How the Best CEOs Differ from Average CEOs at HBR.org.)
Harvard Business Review