Surprising Traits of Successful CEOs

CEOs have stressful jobs. Find out the surprising common traits that make them so successful under pressure.

A recent study of more than 2,000 CEOs in all major industries showed that real-life leaders aren’t necessarily like the Hollywood portrayal. All CEOs, even the most revered, are imperfect; they make mistakes and fail. What sets great CEOs apart is that they learn from those failures and use them as an opportunity to improve process, communication, and decision-making.

While there’s no cookie-cutter mold for a CEO, the study found many do share some surprising traits. What qualities can you cultivate to emulate the most successful CEOs?

Some of the surprising traits are:

  • Reliability – You might expect something more glamorous, but the study found one of the most crucial traits is dependability. Successful CEOs must produce consistent results through strong organization and planning skills with the right team in place. Not so surprisingly, people gravitate towards dependable people because they like familiarity; not much is different within an organization.
  • Adaptiveness –CEOs face a constantly changing environment so they need to be adaptable. To be effective, they need to stay abreast of data and trends and predict industry changes. CEOs spend as much as 50% of their time thinking about the long term, which makes them highly sensitive to early signals that the environment is changing.
  • Introversion – Introverts are slightly more successful. Unlike CEOs on the big screen, if you’re not gregarious, you actually have an advantage. Introverted CEOs are more likely to exceed people’s expectations.
  • Recovery from failure – All CEOs have made mistakes, and 45% have experienced serious career setbacks. CEOs are capable of failing; however, the most successful turn those failures into a positive learning experience which produces better outcomes in the future.
  • Welcomes opposing viewpoints – Successful CEOs don’t care if they are liked, but they don’t shy away from conflict because they manage clashing viewpoints well. They allow everyone to voice an opinion but don’t expect to reach a consensus.
  • Decisiveness – While the CEOs in the survey tried to make educated decisions, they didn’t wait for perfect information. They made calls so the company could move ahead. Most CEOs who were fired over decision-making were let go because of indecisiveness, not due to a bad call.
  • Run-of-the-mill educations – You probably think most CEOs are Ivy League, right? Actually, a greater percentage of successful CEOs (8%) didn’t even graduate from college. Only 7% are Ivy Leaguers. Having a good education helps, but it doesn’t determine the success of a CEO. 
  • Valuing buy-in – Strong CEOs keep their eye on the goal, realizing they can’t succeed alone. They engage stakeholders by driving performance and getting buy-in around value creation. They show confidence (not arrogance) in their decisions and expect others to get on board.
  • Choosing the right team – Interestingly, 60% of first-time CEOs said their biggest mistake was not getting the right team in place quickly. Most successful CEOs understand they need a strong team to support the vision and strategy of an organization; they can’t do it all themselves.

Adding trusted advisors to your team to help make decisions in areas where you’re not as experienced can improve your success and boost your influence in the organization. For example, you may not know all the ins and outs of commercial real estate. It would be prudent to consult an experienced real estate advisor to help you make decisions for space and cost as it relates to your organization’s growth goals.

Let one of Verity Commercial’s trusted real estate advisors assist with your next commercial real estate deal.