Starved for a Leader? Here’s What Makes a Person a Good CEO
Today the CEO position is one of the most sought-after titles in many companies.
However, this same position is the least understood position in companies.
Since CEOs are responsible for running companies, everybody believes that they are magically competent, all-powerful and they can do anything they want.
However, if you want to be a good CEO, then you must possess certain traits, which will make you a good fit for the position.
So, what is a CEO?
CEO stands for a Chief Executive Officer, who is responsible for running or managing a company.
By its nature, a CEO job requires him or her to meet the needs of customers, employees, investors, the law, and communities. Some of the above roles can be delegated, but a CEO must do most of these responsibilities.
WHAT IS THE JOB OF CEO?
This is not a common job description of a CEO, but it is an explanation of the actual roles which a CEO plays in a company.
The main components of a CEO’s job description are:
- Setting a company’s strategy and direction.
- Setting and modeling the values, behavior, and culture of the company.
- Structuring and leading the company’s senior executive team.
- Allocating finances/capital to different priorities of the company.
Although CEOs can get some assistance in some of the above duties, it’s their responsibility to ensure these duties are performed well.
For you to be a successful CEO, you should know more than just the official job description of a CEO.
You need to know how to determine your priorities as a CEO, conduct yourself to stay skillful and rational every day and most important, avoid the downsides which are common to a CEO’s job.
Setting a company’s strategy and direction
This is one of the primary duties of a CEO. But, the senior management team can assist a CEO in developing the company’s strategies – whenever required.
The board of directors can advise, approve or even request the CEO to review the business strategy.
Stakeholders can approve a business plan. But, the CEO is responsible for setting the company’s direction at the end of the day.
As a CEO, it’s your responsibility to:
- Decide the markets which you want your company to enter.
- Decide which competitors to compete against.
- Determine the product lines of your company.
- Plan how your company will differentiate itself from its competitors.
Setting and modeling the values, behavior, and culture of the company
The second duty of a CEO is setting the company’s culture.
In companies, work is done by the employees, and the employees are affected by the company’s culture.
So, every CEO understands that a lousy work environment can drive away great employees.
Employees, on the other hand, can select where they want to work, and great workplaces can attract and even retain the best employees.
A company’s culture is built in different ways, but the CEO is responsible for setting the tone. Every CEO should understand that everything they do passes a cultural message to the employees.
For example, the clothes that a CEO wears sends a message about how formal the CEO wants the workplace to be. How the CEO treats or responds to failure says a lot about how risk-averse the company is.
A CEO can shape the culture by determining who he or she fires, hires, disciplines or rewards.
Everyone should understand that employees will always imitate the CEO’s behavior when determining how to act. Robert Cialdini wrote a book called “Pre-suasion”, which documents the lengths which employees can go into just to imitate their CEO.
A company’s vision determines where the company is going and its values determine how the company will get there. A company’s values should outline a behavior which is acceptable.
CEOs convey company’s value through their actions and their reactions to employees and shareholders of the company.
Structuring and leading the company’s senior executive team
It is the responsibility of the CEO to structure and lead the company’s senior executive team.
The CEO is responsible for hiring, firing and leading the senior management team. The senior management team, in turn, hires, fires and leads the rest of the company.
CEOs must resolve any differences which arise among the members of the senior management team and help them to work in cohesion and ina common direction.
A good CEO sets the directions they want to be followed through communicating the strategies and the vision of where the organization is heading.
Allocating finances/capital to different priorities of the company
The CEO is responsible for setting the company’s budget. A CEO has the power to fund projects which are in line with the company’s strategy.
Also, a CEO can close down the projects which do not support the company’s strategy or are causing the company to lose money.
It is the responsibility of a CEO to consider the major expenses of the company and manage the organization’s capital.
BEHAVIORS AND TRAITS THAT SET SUCCESSFUL CEOs APART
It takes hard work and dedication to become a CEO. Being a CEO is not a job for weak people. But, it looks like once someone takes the position, they tend to forget most of the traits they admired at other CEOs.
You need to understand that effective leadership is very critical to a company’s success.
But, what makes a leader effective?
There are certain traits which a CEOs must possess if they want to be great leaders. These traits are:
Pragmatic and disruptive
Companies need CEOs who can disrupt the normal traditions with innovations, and they can be pragmatic about the priorities, focus and the pace of the organization’s innovation.
Risk taker and reluctant
Good leaders are opportunistic and can take calculated risks. Also, the leaders should be vigilant to avoid leading the company into a cliff.
But, you shouldn’t fear taking risks as unexpected, and great opportunities sometimes come from risk-taking.
Vulnerable and heroic
You should never allow grit and perseverance turn into self-delusion if you are a leader.
CEOs should ensure that they ask for enough counsel and input for them to have continuous improvements to the company as well as themselves.
Connecting and galvanizing
You should support your employees with inspiration and energy, but also learn when to step back and also share the credit with your employees.
Additionally, you should be able to promote your employees’ success and connect your company with to a mission and higher values.
Ability to learn from previous mistakes
A CEO should be able to learn from previous experiences and use those lessons for the future.
Leaders are humans and mistakes happen, but it is vital for you to prevent those mistakes from happening again.
Excellent communication skills
As a leader, you need to possess strong communication skills.
Since communication is essential in any place, you need to learn how to communicate effectively as this helps in to boost the employees’ morale.
From motivating your employees to meeting set deadlines, you should have the ability to communicate your needs and even show your employees how things are done.
If you want to be a good CEO, you must be consistently clear in your communication.
Developing and maintaining relationships
As a CEO, you must be able to develop and maintain relationships with your employees and clients. Good relationships produce loyalty and a good image for the company as well as the CEO.
Additionally, positive relationships help in creating great word-of-mouth, which is always a plus for your company.
Good CEOs are differentiated by their devotion to listening to their team members, customers, and shareholders and how they seek opinions and ideas from others.
Therefore, if you want to be a successful CEO, you should ensure that you incorporate others’ plans and perspectives into your solving of organizational issues.
You must be able to listen attentively.
Furthermore, you must understand that not every idea you have is the best and at times you can be heading towards the wrong direction.
If you learn to seek and listen the ideas of your co-workers, your employees and company will be in a better position to succeed.
CEOs must always understand in and out all the issues of the company they are heading.
Your employees are individuals who have lives outside of their work, and in case of an emergency, you must understand and allow them to handle the crisis.
An employee who works while focused on other things has a very high chance of making mistakes.
Also, you should understand that there are things which happen, and they are out of your employees’ control.
For instance, a customer can decide to change their mind suddenly.
If that happens, you must understand and accept that situation and then handle the situation appropriately.
It is essential for a CEO to show confidence. However, you shouldn’t be arrogant about your skills and status in the company.
You should always be aware of and handle various challenges as you strive to achieve your goals.
Training employees effectively
Since you are the leader of the company, you should be clearing a collaborative and healthy work environment.
CEOs are constantly preparing the next generation of workers in their organization as well as the next generation in their line of work.
Therefore, you should always ensure that you give your employees the tools they require for them to achieve the desired goals.
You must train and reach the employees in a manner which inspires them to succeed.
Thinking outside the box
Although this might look like a common fact, markets do change with time.
At times, the set down procedures that fail to work and to think outside the box can help you and the organization to meet the customers’ expectations.
ADVICE THAT CAN MAKE YOU A BETTER CEO
Leadership can be challenging, and there are those who tend to make it more challenging by overlooking the simple basics of leadership.
Besides reading books about leadership, following these seven pieces of advice about leadership, can help you to become a better CEO.
Endeavor to make the life of your team easier, rather than hard
One of the CEO’s roles is to increase and improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of their employees to enable them to perform better.
However, adding unwanted bureaucracies, asking for endless reports, and holding long and tedious meetings which can be replaced by emails does not fit in this category.
Don’t tell your team how to do their work
CEOs are not expected to be the experts in everything.
Actually, the only thing expected from leaders is to show expertise in their leadership and get only the best out of their employees.
One way to do that is to tell your employees the things you want and your expected outcomes and then let them decide how they can achieve the objectives.
If employees feel that their boss is undercutting their sense of self-worth and value, they find it hard to follow the instructions issued to them.
Do not micromanage your team
Good CEOs know that micromanagement kills productivity.
In addition to that, once you develop a habit for it, no one will be willing to work for you, and you will end up losing many good employees.
Therefore, you must always give your employees freedom and space if you want them to succeed.
Yes, it is OK to check up on them, but that doesn’t have to be every 10 minutes.
You will be responsible for your employee’s failure if you hire employees who do not have the time, skills and tools to do the job properly.
As a CEO, it is your responsibility to ensure that your employees are placed in positions which will allow them to be successful. If an employee lacks some essential qualifications, then do not be afraid of addressing it.
Nobody will accept accountability if he or she feels like they cannot do the job, or they lack the things they need for them to do the job. If that is the situation of your employees, then you have not done your job as a leader.
Don’t punish everybody who makes a mistake
Mistakes happen, and a good CEO should be able to distinguish whether the errors were because of negligence or not. If the mistakes happened as a result of negligence, then it can be appropriate if you take action.
However, if you want your employees to be productive, you should create an environment where they can try out new things without fearing punishments. I
f you fail to do that, you can hinder risk-taking and innovations, which are key to a company’s growth.
Emphasize on a good work-life balance
Leaders should always take care of their employees’ well-being and health. Therefore, you should monitor excessive working hours and weekend working. Be careful not to create plans which depend on evening and weekend working.
It’s always a good thing to encourage your employees to go home when it starts getting late, particularly if you are leaving the office.
Nothing builds bitterness among the employees like the CEO leaving early, and the team is forced to work late for them to meet deadlines.
Your employees will always appreciate you if you take care of their work-life balance, instead of taking them for granted.
Encourage your employees whenever they do good
Recognizing the success of your employees is one of the best things you can ever do as a leader. First, it will cost you nothing, it’s not hard to do, and it motivates your employees to work harder.
Employees need to feel like they are doing a good job and recognition helps them to know that. Never wait until your employees have done extraordinary things for you to praise them.
You should begin by recognizing their efforts as that leads you to recognize their bigger and better achievements.
You should do a major part of the job if you want to get most of the credit
One thing which destroys the relationship between CEOs and their employees is stealing the credit for a job they didn’t do.
Even though stealing might sound absurd, that’s how your employees will view it, and it can damage your relationship with them.
Remember, being a leader doesn’t make you entitled to the largest share of your employees’ credit.
THINGS FOR A GOOD CEO TO LEARN OR IMPROVE
When it comes to management and leadership, it is good if you possess exceptional personal qualities like humility, integrity, and authenticity among others.
But, with all these qualities, you will be required to achieve results.
Everyone desiring to lead should understand that results determine success and for this to be possible, a CEO must inspire his or her employees to achieve great things.
So, how can a good CEO achieve that?
If you want to achieve great and amazing results, you must keep your employees engaged.
You should know that if your employees are not involved, they will just be turning up and not doing as much as they could if they were engaged.
CEO cannot support his or her employees via email or from his/her private office. You cannot engage your employees unless you are engaged.
Therefore, a CEO is required to get out of the boardroom, show his or her enthusiasm and passion, clarify and explain the purpose of the objectives and align the desires and goals of the employees with the company’s goals.
Once you engage your employees, you should plan how to excite them.
It’s the desire of every employee to work in a successful company and feel like they are always doing a great job.
So, if you can show your employees how they will succeed, they will always be motivated and ready to put in more effort to achieve their goals and objectives.
Employees don’t fear working hard, but they fear to fail. Showing your employees how they can achieve their success will boost their confidence and believe that they will succeed.
This can be a great inspiration to the employees. Engaged and excited employees make a powerful team, which can achieve incredible results.
But, the employees need empowerment to achieve their results.
Empowered employees usually take ownership, and in case things start going south, they find a way to ensure that the desired results are achieved.
Many times, leaders want to be in control of everything, to the extent that they want to be involved in everything, such as approving even the smallest changes in the company. These leaders obstruct and limit the potential of the employees.
If you want to empower your employees, you should allow them to have the flexibility they need to make the required adjustments in case things don’t turn out as expected.
You should delegate some of the control you possess, but that should happen with clear boundaries. That assists the employees to understand when they are required to make decisions, and when they are needed to ask for your approval.
The more you empower your employees, the more they become committed. When it comes to empowerment, you should understand that it is a delicate balancing act. But, you can become better with practice, and your employees will always appreciate it.
Learn how to say ‘no’
Being a CEO, you must learn how to say “no”. Whether you are leading a small or big industry, it can be challenging to turn down opportunities which can help you to grow…or will slow you down.
However, you must learn to choose which opportunities to accept and which to turn down if you want to succeed as a leader.
How to pitch
At times opportunities won’t come knocking, and you will be forced to go out and look for opportunities.
Therefore, you must ensure that you have the skills to make a case for your organization to outsiders.
That should be whether you are asking the board of directors to approve something important for the organization or looking for people to invest in your company.
The ability to read financials
As a CEO, it is essential that you possess the ability to read financial statements on your own.
Failure to possess those skills can be disastrous since you can easily fail to realize when the company’s money is being embezzled.
These skills can be learned, and it can be even better to learn the basics of finance.
How to handle criticism
CEOs are usually the main target for criticism from their employees and other people outside their organization.
If you want to be a good CEO, you must be able to handle criticisms, and not take things personally.
THINGS FOR A GOOD CEO TO DO EVERY DAY
Do you want your organization to grow and thrive? Of course, you do, so these are some things which you can do every day, and can really help you to become better as a CEO. These things include:
Very few people find time to read after graduating from college.
But, research has revealed that the world’s greatest leaders read regularly and they are always learning and discovering new things.
As a CEO, you should know that educating yourself is very important to keep up with changes in the industry, especially if you want to climb up the ladder faster.
Have a vision
It is the CEO’s job to set the company’s vision.
Where do you want the company to be in the next 10 years? Do you have any ideas about new strategies or products? How do you see the culture of the company 6 months from today? I
t’s your sole responsibility as a CEO to set the company’s vision, and you cannot delegate this task to anyone else.
Develop a strategy
As the company’s CEO, you must assist in developing the strategies which will make the company’s vision come true.
Yes, you might not be competent in all the areas which require you to make strategies, but, you should be involved in the approval or planning process in an area which affects the company’s long-term strategy.
Regardless of your work experience, it is always a good idea to find someone to coach you through the challenges you encounter as a CEO.
Monitor the company’s cash
Very few CEOs handle the financials of their organizations by themselves.
Usually, there is a CFO (Chef Finance Office), but it’s your job as a CEO to ensure that your company doesn’t run out of money.
Always ensure that you check your financial records regularly.
If you want to be a successful CEO, you must be aware of your company’s cash flow at all times.
To be clear, being a leader is not all about sitting down and issuing instructions.
It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and leading your team from the forefront.
If you want to be a great leader and you lack some of the above skills, researching about personal improvement skills, seeking advice from a business mentor and even learning from other executives can help you to grow both professionally and personally.