Executive Talent Search & Digital Marketing for Mission-Driven Organizations | From Good to Great: 5 Characteristics of Successful CEOs

From Good to Great: 5 Characteristics of Successful CEOs

I firmly believe that it is not useful to grade myself as an executive by our organization’s performance metrics every month. Today’s results are based on my mindset and actions 6 to 12 months ago. So I focus every day on growing in the areas that will create a lasting impact later this year and in the years to come. I ran across a great article in Harvard Business Review (HBR): “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart”. I wanted to share some of the most important ideas with you.

Proactive Decision-Making

Successful CEOs demonstrate a remarkable ability to make proactive, strategic decisions. They possess a forward-looking mindset, considering long-term goals and envisioning the future of their organizations. Rather than shying away from ambiguity, they embrace it, taking calculated risks and leveraging their expertise to navigate uncertainties. Great CEO’s make the important decisions that they know will guide their organization, not focusing on reacting to whatever is happening that day or week.

Adaptive Learning

Exceptional CEOs embody a relentless pursuit of knowledge and possess a growth mindset. They actively seek new insights and perspectives, continually adapting their leadership approach to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving business landscape. They foster a culture of learning to encourage innovation and ensure that their teams are equipped to tackle emerging challenges. They are not afraid of changing and adapting – which is especially difficult when they are already successful, but know they need to make a change to remain successful in an evolving landscape.

Collaborative Mindset

One trait that distinguishes successful CEOs is their recognition of the power of collaboration. They understand that diverse perspectives lead to better decision-making and encourage open communication within their organizations. By building strong teams and fostering an environment of trust, they leverage collective intelligence to drive innovation and achieve superior results. Great CEOs hire smart people, and encourage them to challenge leadership and promote new ideas.

Focus on Talent Development

Exceptional CEOs recognize that their people are the cornerstone of organizational success. They invest in attracting top talent and prioritize their development through training, mentorship, and growth opportunities. They know that hiring and building a great team is their largest task and should take the majority of their time and energy. By creating a high-performance culture and fostering a sense of purpose, these CEOs build engaged and motivated teams that drive sustainable growth.

Resilience and Emotional Intelligence

In the face of challenges, successful CEOs display resilience and emotional intelligence. They remain composed under pressure, inspiring confidence in their teams and navigating complex situations with grace. By balancing empathy and strategic thinking, they foster a positive work environment and nurture strong relationships within their organizations.


None of these are new ideas – you’ve probably heard them all many times before. But I found it valuable to take a few minutes to review these and make sure that I have set aside time to focus on them in my schedule this week. Hopefully you find them helpful too!

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