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13 Traits You Need To Have To Be CEO

Brush up on your CEO skills with these 13 essential traits.

Whether you’re moving up in a company or starting your own, you’ve likely got your eye on that corner office and CEO title. But do you know what it takes to be a successful CEO?

This list of 13 traits may not even come as a surprise to you. After all, if we compare Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg (and other CEOs), you’ll find that they have every single one of these traits in common, along with some outliers even.

But now it’s your turn to make an impact on the world, so see if you have or can foster these personality traits to help you get into the C-Suite.

1. Purpose Drive. Motivation. Spirit. It has a lot of names but whatever you call it, make sure you hold onto this as tight as you can. Purpose is what brings your idea to life and what makes you stick with it on those days when you’re on the brink of calling it quits. So ask yourself: Why are you doing this? Why are you passionate about it?

2. Vision What does the future look like for your business? Where do you hope to be in a year? What about in five, ten, fifty years? How do you hope to grow, what impact do you wish to have on the lives of others?

Grill yourself because all of these questions will help you figure out your vision and keep you focused on those hard as hell days. Your purpose is what drives you, your vision is what drives your business. Make sure your entire team is in alignment with this vision because it’s going to take a unified team effort to make sure everything stays on track.

3. Learn From The Past The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If a certain ad space didn’t work for you, don’t keep pouring money into it quarter after quarter and expecting it to suddenly take off. Instead, take time to research your target audience and the campaign that flopped and figure out what may have caused it to fail. Was it bad timing, bad placement, or something else?

This doesn’t just apply to ads, either. Remember to learn from the past successes and failures of not only your business, but competitors, as well. You’ll learn so much about the do’s and don’ts without trying to recreate the wheel.

4. Communication Skills This one should go without saying. As CEO, you’re probably doing the most communication. You’re communicating with your team, investors, suppliers, buyers, marketers, vendors… The list goes on. You should be well-versed in speaking to each type of person you’ll have contact with. You might know exactly what to say and how to say it when speaking to investors, but speaking to your customers is an entirely different animal. Be sure you know the differences and brush up on your communication skills for those parties you’re not too sure about.

5. Build Relationships The last thing you want to do as a business owner is to burn too many bridges. You need to be able to build rapport with all those people we just mentioned in the last point because these relationships you create will be beneficial to you in the long run. Managing a business comes with a lot of curveballs and you never know who you might need to call on and when. Building relationships is also important to your business’s growth. When you’re well liked, word of your business will spread in a positive manner, bringing more people to your door without spending a dollar.

6. Realistic Optimism Positive thinking and excitement are contagious. Your team will be able to sense whether you’re optimistic about a certain development or have some negative feelings towards it. But you also have to keep it real. While we encourage you to dream big, boldly stating that you’re going to make $1 million in your first year, though optimistic, probably isn’t feasible. This might be a lofty goal and without proof that it’s possible, it won’t help motivate your team. Instead, a smaller and more realistic goal, perhaps broken down by quarter, month or even week, will create that contagious optimism you’re looking for.

7. Empathy For some, the term CEO is synonymous with a big, mean, bossy entrepreneur who needed a coffee 10 minutes ago. It’s an intimidating title, associated with power and respect and sometimes even fear. It’s your job as a CEO to show that you are not a heartless tyrant. Your team should feel comfortable speaking to you and sharing ideas with you. As CEO, you’ll also need to adopt an understanding mindset. Sometimes children are sick, pets have emergencies, and work can’t always be the first priority. By creating a safe and healthy work environment, you’ll see a boost in creativity and productivity because your team will genuinely enjoy their jobs and feel appreciated in their work.

8. Listening Skills Beyond just being able to communicate and empathize, you need to be able to listen. You’d be surprised at the ideas your team can come up with when given the chance. They might have great solutions to pressing issues that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. By teaching yourself to listen, you’ll figure out your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and gain a whole range of new perspectives from which you can approach your next business move.

9. Calculated Risks Unless you’ve got a crystal ball hidden under your desk, there are going to be times when the best move for your business isn’t quite clear. You’ll need to have a rational head in these times and be able to sort out your pros and cons. Sometimes, you’ll need to take a leap of faith to get where and what you want, and as CEO, it’s up to you to think that leap all the way through to make sure it’s worth the risk.

10. Quick Thinking Sometimes you won’t have very long to calculate those risks and will have to make a snap decision instead. An investor might have a check for you that will erase your financial burdens, but you have to agree to giving them 20% stake in the next 5 minutes. Or a customer might have a complaint about your business that they’re about to take public unless you’re able to satisfy them. Are you able to think on your toes while staying rational without needing a day or two to sit down and figure out a game plan?

11. Adapting Management Styles Part of your job as CEO will be to make sure your team are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. By adapting to their different management styles, you’ll be able to see your team start to grow and contribute more to the business because they feel confident enough to do so. Different people react better to different styles of management. One member of your team might need a little more hands-on instruction or a detailed to-do list, while another might prefer to be given a task and a deadline and left alone to complete it. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for the team as a whole and for each individual, and to adapt your methods to have the most impact.

12. Effective Coaching How you handle teaching your team is another factor that determines how good of a CEO you are. At some point, your team will need training, whether it’s about your product or testing out a new email host, and as CEO, you need to make sure you’re teaching them in a way that is both effective and beneficial to them. If you see a team member doing something incorrectly, you’ll also have to know the best way to coach them to the correct method in a positive manner that encourages learning.

13. Think outside the box And of course, you have to be able to keep your business one step ahead. You might already know what sets you apart from your competition, but that’s never going to be a one-and-done thing. Don’t rest on your laurels because your competition is going to catch up and introduce new things to put themselves ahead. You have to be innovative and creative and constantly think of ways that differentiate you from the competition, along with new strategies for growing business and attracting new customers. After all, someone had to be the first to come up with the idea of giving cell phones the ability to send text messages in addition to making calls.

Are there any other traits you think are important to have as a CEO?

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