Qualities of a Great CEO—and, By Implication, Great Leaders

Eighty percent of successful CEOs come from within their companies, but many of them think like outsiders.

Illustration by Sadia Tariq, LHR

The New York Times bestseller CEO Excellence is based on 67 interviews with outstanding CEOs. Coming out of these interviews are six elements behind CEO excellence: setting the direction, aligning the organization, mobilizing through leaders, engaging the board, connecting with stakeholders, and managing personal effectiveness. These six things in themselves are not rocket science, but great CEOs—and, by implication, great leaders—tend to perform all six of these responsibilities well. That was one big insight the authors of the book got from the interviews.

The second big insight was that they tended to be great integrators–integration across the organization is critical.

The other big takeaway, which the book is fundamentally based on, are the mindsets that these great leaders bring to the role. The mindset of being bold is vital as it plays out in the strategic moves and resource allocation. That boldness is important for aspiring CEOs as well. Around aligning the organization, the mindset of treating the soft stuff as the hard stuff is also a critical one and one sees that in how great CEOs handle culture and talent. And on mobilizing through leaders, many of these great CEOs focused on the question, how do you create not just a team of stars but a star team?

Other takeaways:
Outstanding leaders are built, not born.
“If you want to lead, you have to be committed to serve.”
Elevate your perspective–higher balcony view.
Round out your profile with humility.
Be clear about your vision–it helps establish your mandate.
Formulate crisp and compelling answers to anticipated questions.
Take cross-business or cross-industry initiatives.
Remain true to your authentic self.

A strong CEO (or a leader) doesn’t involve a generic set of skills, but has all or most of the above.

Read the original article here.