7 essential qualities of a CEO

Every business requires a capable leader to take it to great heights. It could be in terms of revenue, brand value, market penetration etc. And the CEO is responsible for accelerating growth of the business through the right strategy and vision.

But as a business, there are certain qualities that you need to look for in a CEO, A CEO has to standout from the rest of the leadership.

In this article, I will list down 7 essential qualities you need to look for, while you choose a CEO for your business.

So here we go

1. Thought leadership and vision

Different experts find varying dimensions to thought leadership. Simply, it refers to the ability to lead your business, industry and followers with your impeccable knowledge and wisdom. People come to you for answers on various aspects such as how a recent trend can impact businesses in your domain, or whether a new technology is going to disrupt the way businesses work.

It could be anything else related to your area of expertise. You kind of become the guide and final word for others in that area.

And a CEO, beyond doubt should be a thought leader. He/she should be able to see the future and lead the company’s investment and effort in that direction.

He/she should also be a visionary, and should always explore what the company could potentially achieve, rather than being restricted by numbers and statistics. A CEO should be able to see the bigger picture, and ought to weave together various elements of the organization to achieve business goals.

Warren Buffet and Henry Ford are classic examples of leaders who are visionaries.

2. Charisma

Charisma and elegance make people unique. And this is more true for CEOs. CEOs have to interact with internal and external stakeholders literally everyday. This demands them to have eloquent communication skills and interact with others and followers at a deep emotional level. They should be able to impress and influence others through their style, wisdom, experience and articulation.

Being a CEO is very challenging, and others continuously evaluate and assess his/her capabilities to run the business successfully. And charisma is one of the essential qualities of a CEO, that will help him/her achieve that.

3. Credibility and credentials

Charisma and thought leadership help you to impress people. But for your audience and colleagues to value your vision and thoughts over the long term, you need to sound credible. And credibility comes with the effectiveness of your knowledge and vision.

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Also, your strategies need to yield results. Your predictions need to be true. Your leadership should earn respect. And industrialists and other thought leaders should find your opinions valid.

Credentials refer to your achievements such as:

  • How much you have helped grow a business or division
  • Awards and recognitions you have won
  • Your experience in working with large and established companies
  • Your popularity as a business man and thought leader

All the above contribute to a CEOs credentials. Whether you wish to become one, or want to choose one for your business, this is one of the essential qualities you need to possess.

4. Finance and revenue management

Are you surprised to see this point making it to the list? You might be thinking that when every organization has a CFO, why should a CEO be good at finance and revenue management.

Well CEOs need not necessarily know how to calculate the value of a bond, or even how financial derivatives work. But they definitely should be able to take financial decisions based on the company’s performance and historical data. They should be able to wisely distribute their budget among different business divisions.

Sometimes CEOs are called on to give a sign off on financial reports, in which case they should be able distill and digest relevant information and assess how it could impact the business. So beyond doubt, finance and revenue management skills are one of the essential qualities of a CEO

5. People management skills

People management is one of the necessary qualities of a CEO. CEOs should be able to work well with their subordinates, and support them by continuously reviewing their work. The support also needs to be at a personal level by providing mentorship, career guidance, providing flexibility at work etc.

A vital part of people management is listening to, and valuing your peers’ thoughts and views. CEOs also need to ensure that their employees feel a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the business. And the best way to do it is by giving them tasks that provide enough opportunities to learn and grow.

Some of the other people management skills CEOs should possess include:

  • Ability to build rapport with others
  • Taking the time to know their subordinates professionally and personally
  • Ability to solve conflicts and difference of opinion
  • Giving importance to personal preferences

6. Effective client relationship management

CEOs are the face of a company, and must be very good at managing customers effectively. They should be good at making the best pitch to them by understanding their needs and pain points. They have to be polite, at the same time credible enough to talk customers into buying the company’s products and services.

Improving customer relationship is not just about interacting with customers well. It also involves ensuring a superior post purchase experience. Whether you are selling a product or a service, in B2B or B2C, you need to collect feedback from your customers on the experience.

And CEOs need to anchor this effort. Especially if the company is into the service sector. A service period extends into many years, and it is the CEO’s responsibility to continuously monitor the performance of various delivery teams. This doesn’t mean that they need to keep a close eye on the day to day activities of a delivery team. Rather, they have to stay in close touch with the delivery heads to solve any serious escalations or crisis situations.

7. Inspiration

This is my favorite. And I believe it is one of the must have qualities for a CEO. When CEOs have to be good at their own work, they also have to inspire people around them.

Inspiration could be in various forms as below:

  • To continuously learn to develop one’s skills
  • To help your colleagues to achieve their work goals
  • To positively impact the life around you
  • To actively contribute to organizational goals

This is not an exhaustive list. You could find more meanings to inspiration. But the intent here is to emphasize the importance of  a CEO becoming a source of inspiration for his/her employees. It helps to bind everyone together to achieve a common goal. It helps to create a highly motivated workforce. Inspiration could also be instrumental in spreading the word about the company’s culture and values.

Not every leader can become a CEO. You shall be able to use the above points to choose the best CEO for your business. Do you agree with these points? Let me know in the comments section. 

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