I’ve worked with many CEOs over the last 25 years. Some great, some good, and some who didn’t quite make the grade. The great ones had a few traits in common…they were excellent communicators, compassionate and whip smart. (Italicized text represents my own editorial.)
The Harvard Business Review recently outlined four essential behaviors of successful CEOs:
- Making quick decisions with conviction. Decisive.
- Engaging for impact. Collaborative.
- Proactively adapting. Doer.
- Delivering reliably. Expectation setter.
Russell Reynolds Associates, a global search and leadership advisory firm, offers the following in their thought leadership blog:
- Willingness to take calculated risks. Gutsy.
- Bias toward action. Doer.
- Ability to efficiently “read” people. Insightful.
- Forward thinking. Innovative.
- Intrepid. Courageous.
And from CNBC reporting on a panel at SXSW which examined the traits of many successful Silicon Valley CEOs:
I admit, this one stumped me. Dictionary.com describes psychopathy as “a mental disorder in which an individual manifests amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.”
Doesn’t exactly scream successful CEO to me. However, venture capitalist Bryan Stolle believes that psychopaths are common within the CEO ranks because to successfully start a company you need to be “uncompromising in your vision, which requires a hearty dose of both ego and persistence, and you have to be willing to sacrifice almost everything for success.” Still not sure I buy it.
Dr. Igor Galynker, the associate chairman for research in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, believes that “lacking empathy, more often than not, will help you in an environment where you have to make decisions that create negative consequences by necessity for other people.” I’ve never known or worked with a psychopathic CEO, but according to a 2016 study, 21 percent of senior professionals in the U.S. had “clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits.” Kind of frightening for those working with these 21 percent.
While collaboration, innovation and insightfulness are clearly important CEO qualities, I suppose it is possible that a little bit of ego, tenacity and charm could also result in success.
Laurie Berman, firstname.lastname@example.org