3 Traits of Successful CEOs

So, you want to learn how to be a CEO. But not just any CEO. You want to be a good CEO. A great one. The best leader ever.

You’re in the right place! In this blog, I’m going to share three qualities that I firmly believe are vital if you want to be a successful CEO, lead a team that respects you, and steer your business toward success.

Let’s jump in!

By the way, if you prefer videos to text, catch me on YouTube.

3 Traits of the Top CEOs

While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, certain traits and strategies are trademarks of all great CEOs. These are three strategies I live by and have also seen other reliable CEOs exhibit.

1. Find Your Own Mentor

In a previous blog, I talked about how to mentor aspiring leaders in your organization. (More on this in a moment.) However, just because you’re the current leader doesn’t mean you don’t need a mentor yourself!

Being a strong CEO is more than a soft skill. It’s not solely about being likable, although that certainly helps. Imagine being a pilot and being expected to know how to fly a plane… just because people like you.

My point is this: Being liked isn’t enough to make successful CEOs.

There are certain skills you’ll need to acquire and perfect. You can do this by making mistakes (which will happen no matter what, to be clear) or you can have someone more experienced to guide you.

Important Questions to Ask

Pay attention to how your mentor talks and acts:

  • How do they carry themselves in front of board members and other executives? How do they engage stakeholders?
  • How do they define a clear direction and business goals for the company’s employees?
  • What do they do in order to build strong relationships?
  • How are they in crisis? How do they address and overcome challenges?
  • How have they established a positive company culture? (And what is that company culture, exactly?

These are just a few examples of questions you can ask yourself about your mentor. Essentially, you’re trying to pinpoint what makes them a great leader and CEO.

Mentoring a CEO

I can’t stress this enough. The best CEOs know that they’re not the best! They can acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers. If you can’t acknowledge this, well, this is one common reason why some CEOs fail.

There will always be someone who knows more than you do or possesses skills you don’t have. Find that person, listen, and watch. Your company will thank you for it.

2. Mentor Other Leaders in Your Own Company

No, it’s not about teaching employees to take your job (although you might want one of them to do exactly that one day!).

Rather, effective CEOs engage in the leadership development of their own staff.

There are many benefits to this. First, you will learn, and that’s because one of the best ways to learn and improve a certain skill (like being an efficient CEO) is by teaching others to do that same thing.

Second, your employees will benefit from your mentorship and enjoy both short-term gains and long-term success.

Third, and for these reasons, your company as a whole will prosper in multiple ways.

Important Questions to Ask

When it comes to mentoring your employees, I want you to ask yourself a few questions. This information will help make the experience better for all involved.

  • How can you communicate effectively with each mentee? Are they more receptive when you’re blunt, or do they do better with a softer way of speaking?
  • What hard skills, soft skills, and qualities do they need the most help with? A specific software that they use for their daily responsibilities? Critical thinking? Active listening? Making high-pressure business decisions?
  • What should all parties involved get out of this relationship?
CEO mentoring his team

Keep an open line of communication here! Ask what your employees would like you to help them with. Ask how you can best serve them. It’s a two-way street. Great CEOS listen as much as they talk.

Essentially, it comes down to tailoring your mentorship for each person — because your employees are all different and unique! There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

3. Learn the Various Departments of Your Company

You hire employees so that you don’t have to do all of the work by yourself. So, I’m not telling you to try to learn their jobs. (I think this would push most CEOs over the edge!)

Rather, successful CEOs have at least a vague understanding of what the different departments of their business are up to. This helps them better get to know their employees, make major decisions for the company, get different perspectives, come up with new ideas, stop mistakes before they happen, and improve the overall direction that the business is taking.

Okay, But How?

There are all sorts of ways you can do this.

You might attend conferences that your employees are going to. Or maybe you have them CC you in email threads purely for visibility. Maybe each week, you commit to spending dedicated time with each department to learn how they interview, hire, and train for the company.

No, these things aren’t your job. However, as the CEO, you’re ultimately responsible for your business results. So, if something impacts your company, you still need to care about it, even if it isn’t your job.

Employee pointing to whiteboard

Getting to know your departments and the people who keep them running is great for relationship-building, employee engagement, and working toward your vision for your business as one cohesive group.

Remember, even though different employees might have vastly different perspectives and roles, you’re still all on the same team, working toward the same overarching goal: taking the company to the next level.

The Best CEOs Know How Important Strategy Is

Strong communication skills matter. Encouraging a positive culture in your company is important. Being humble and truthful is non-negotiable. Rewarding employees and recognizing their efforts is a must.

In addition, the most impactful CEOs:

  • Work with a mentor.
  • Mentor others.
  • Familiarize themselves with the different departments in their company.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

You might be thinking, “This stuff will take time!” And you’re right. Do you know what else takes time? Becoming a successful CEO.

If you really want to be the leader of your company, then you hopefully know that this is a marathon, and you’re in it for the long term.

Think about it. Imagine it’s your first month on the job, and board members and other executives look at you and ask, “Well, what’s taking so long?!” You know that you need more time than that to deliver results.

So, be willing to invest that time in others, too!

If you need a more concrete path to success, try setting three-, six-, nine-, and 12-month goals when it comes to mentoring and learning the departments of the organization. Define the outcomes you’re trying to achieve.

This helps to keep you and your organization clear on what the goals and processes are.

Take time to develop these critically important qualities, and you, your employees, and your company will all enjoy greater success.

Did you enjoy this blog? Keep reading! Next, learn about important qualities for stellar leadership development.

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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