For many high-achieving professionals, the ultimate career goal is to become a chief executive officer.
While anyone who climbs the corporate ladder or starts their own company can hold this title, it takes an outstanding type of leader to truly embody what it means to be a CEO. This coveted position is more than simply “calling the shots” – it means earning respect and inspiring your entire organization to do their best work for the good of the company.
We asked 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council to share one key trait or skill they believe makes a person “CEO material,” and how one can best develop it.
The best CEOs are passionate about their work. Passion derives from a strong connection to your mission, your vision, and your goals. Without that passion and connection, it can be impossible to understand a company, and how and why it’s run the way it is. If you’re not passionate, go back to understanding why you started your company and re-connect with your story. – Valerie Martinelli, Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC
To be a CEO, a person needs a vision. Think of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. They also need to be able to compellingly communicate that vision to inspire, motivate and lead others to contribute to its success. To improve or develop a vision, surround yourself with others who have big visions! – Christine Hueber, ChristineHueber.com
3. Grit And Courage
A great CEO can take ownership of the strategic direction of a company and should be able to model the vision for the company with actions, not just words. A CEO needs to possess grit, the ability to be nimble, and courage. These qualities are developed by practicing leadership, executive coaching and feedback from employees, board members and shareholders when applicable. – Tamiko Cuellar, Pursue Your Purpose LLC
Effective CEOs are clearly visionary, strong communicators and culture builders. However, one thing that sets great CEOs apart is that they are decisive. They don’t make decisions in a vacuum or believe that their way is always the best way. Rather, they engage in open dialogues, gather information, and listen to many points of view. Then, they make tough decisions for the organization. – Edith Onderick-Harvey, NextBridge Consulting, LLC
Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
5. Self-Confidence Tempered By Vulnerability
The higher you rise in the ranks, the more impact your every decision can have. CEOs must have the intelligence and the self-confidence to assemble the best people by their side – people who are leaders in their own right – so they can gather enough information to make informed decisions. – Sheri Nasim, Center for Executive Excellence
6. A Track Record Of High Performance And Potential
A potential CEO, like other standout employees within a company’s leadership pipeline, is characterized not only by their excellent performance track records, but their desire to take the reigns on more challenging leadership positions. Someone who has not exhibited high performance or high potential can simply decide to change their trajectory, mindset and behavior to excel. – Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., WordSmithRapport
7. Backbone And Heart
Potential CEOs need to work on their ability to stand their ground and speak their minds. Let’s call that backbone the willingness to say what may be considered unpopular. But you need to also add heart: the ability to stay connected even when the relationship is mired in conflict. You need to master both. – Dean Miles, Bridgepoint Coaching & Strategy Group
8. A Connection With The Culture
Vision, tenacity, passion and grit are all critical components that make great a CEO. However, one aspect commonly overlooked is the importance of connecting with the culture, i.e., the people in the organization. Most CEOs are distant and removed from the people who make the business happen. The most impactful CEOs make a point of personally connecting with the culture to cultivate trust. – Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
9. No Ego
Great CEOs have an “everyone wins” mentality, and their leadership style is about developing everyone to do their best. They cannot be all ego. They must have a vision and strategic direction ability, but the ones I have seen that do the best, engender the best in everyone around them. – Janet Zaretsky, The Zenith Business
The best current and aspiring CEOs I’ve come across are those who demonstrate curiosity and will ask masterful questions to evaluate the macro and micro situation and possibilities for success. They don’t pretend to have all the answers because they know there are so many options – which is why curious questioning is critical for success. -Caroline Stokes, FORWARD Human Capital Solutions
11. The Ability To Anticipate And Navigate Challenges
The chief of an organization dares to be different by being prepared for the challenges of today and anticipating the unknown challenges and possibilities that lay around the corner. They have the emotional stamina to go against the grain — taking risks, not just talking about them. – Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., Success Starts With You
12. Emotional Intelligence (EI)
The CEO is the nucleus of a company’s culture. Their strengths, values and personal struggles are reflected through the organization as a whole. Emotionally intelligent leaders are necessary for emotionally intelligent companies. This is why we coach CEOs in our leadership development process. As they build EI in themselves, it’s reflected in their leadership culture. – David Butlein, Ph.D., BLUECASE Strategic Partners
13. Finely Tuned Intuition
Great CEOs follow their intuition and commit to what they believe in. They’re largely responsible for steering the company, so being able to listen to their inner voice and trust that they know what’s best for the future of the organization – and ask for help when they’re at an impasse – is essential. – Erika Ashley Couto, It’s Erika Ashley, Inc.
14. Relationship-Building Skills
The ability to form deep, trusting relationships is the most “make it or break it” attribute of a successful CEO. Develop connections by investing heavily in your own emotional and social intelligence. Solicit feedback about how others experience you, learn from your shortcomings, and engage by being present in the time you give to people. – Maria Pastore, Maria Pastore Coaching
15. The Mindset To Embrace Obstacles
A true CEO understands that obstacles are a part of the path. Those who are not CEO material think obstacles are the problem, and believe they’re the reason why things can’t get completed or are too hard. CEOs see the obstacles as blessings and stepping stones on the path that allow the opportunity to learn new skills, leverage situations and reflection time for new ideas. – Dawn Ali, Happy Rich Great Body