If you were to narrow down the ideal qualities of a CEO to five items, what would you choose to include? Many would consider leadership, confidence, or communication: these are certainly important CEO qualifications. But do they make a good CEO? Maybe not: for example, according to research published in Harvard Business Review, confidence will make a CEO twice as likely to get hired, but it does not seem to impact how well they do the job.
Conversely, a good CEO is someone who’s capable of juggling several critical duties and also remain trusted and respected decision-makers by others – particularly his or her colleagues and employees. To do this, and sustain it, you need to possess or build those less-than-tangible characteristics. Here are 5 qualities of a CEO:
Foresight means having critical thinking when it comes to future planning and possibilities. It is a characteristic that is useful to all of us in our work and personal lives. But, for CEOs especially, it is twice as important. You are dealing with a lot of money, investors, and business activities – usually all at once – and you are also responsible for steering the company in the right direction. Having the ability to forecast what could happen in a few months or even years from now, and prepare for the possible outcomes, is one of the most invaluable characteristics of a CEO.
Think of the story of Blockbuster, a once fast-growing, international company worth billions that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010. Despite its CEO John Antioco making some efforts to change the business model and compete with growing threats such as Netflix and Redbox, BlockBuster as a company (and its subsequent leadership) was slow to adapt and never adjusted its established methods of making money.
A good CEO is someone who’s capable of juggling several critical duties and also remain trusted and respected decision-makers by others.
Any good employee, no matter their rank, needs to be reliable. But we are all human: we may promise something we cannot deliver or make the wrong decision in a critical matter. The problem is, when CEOs exhibit these behaviors, even rarely, they risk losing the trust of important people (namely their employees and the board of directors). That is why a CEO should strive to be reliable all the time. It is one of the most important qualities of a CEO.
Doing things autonomously is a behavior often associated with people of power, those looking down on everyone else from a watchtower and making decisions on their own. But, in real life, this is seldom the case for a smart CEO – there’s a great number of people whose input you need in order to make proper strategic and people decisions. Most CEOs know how important it is to consult with your C-suite team and even your lower-level employees.
This is one of the qualities of a CEO that involves active listening, posing the right questions and asking for feedback, and often also delegating work to your colleagues. As HR expert Hung Lee recently told us in an interview about CEO recruiting challenges: “We all interact with others in our work and we need to trust them to a certain degree to deliver for us.”
Last but not least, decency: a trait that can greatly help you be a better CEO. A significant part of a CEO’s job is relationship-building, with shareholders, investors, employees, and the public. It will be much easier for others to trust you enough to understand your vision and help you realize it if you show genuine decency and care toward them.
And that, of course, does not only mean being a good person. It is about showing compassion and understanding and being alert for how different factors impact your employees or the public.