Hiring a CEO – What qualities do companies prefer?


“You are the CEO of your life, your department, your team,” says executive coach Debra Benton, author of CEO Material.

“If you embody traits of the best CEOs, you’ll have a much better chance of rising to the top.”

Becoming a CEO takes hard work and dedication. Effective leadership is the most important aspect of a company and its team’s success. Surveying the psychometric profiles of 200 global CEOs, the Harvard study revealed that best-in-class CEOs shared traditional qualities, such as a strong sense of self-awareness, prioritization skills, and, most of all, a willingness to listen and hear new ideas from their fellow leaders. Besides these, here are some of the qualities companies prefer while appointing or hiring a CEO.


It’s the vision of the CEO that dictates the future of the company. Without vision, a CEO is merely a celebrated facilitator or a seasoned manager. The greatest CEOs find ways to continue exploring and nurturing their vision, and ways of testing their vision in the real world without putting their company in danger. But more importantly, they also remain open to the feedback of others, especially the rest of their leadership team, to help them refine and develop their vision for the company.

Calculated Risk Taking

Great, and sometimes unforeseen opportunities often come from taking risks. Hence companies prefer CEOs who are successful in leading transformative change within an enterprise and are able to embrace risk in a way that differs from the other members of their leadership team. However, an aversion to risk is not the same as being extroverted. Extroversion is by no means standard for CEOs – as noted by the Harvard Business Review study. A willingness to take risks, however, was found to be a dominant trait for those playing the role of a CEO.

Realistic Optimism

It’s important for a CEO to be confident, but not arrogant about their skills and what they offer to their employees. They should remain aware of and confront challenges while still striving to reach audacious goals. The greatest CEO is able to toe the line and remain curious and grounded simultaneously. Someone who is extremely aware of the pieces on the chessboard, and how certain moves will affect the position of the company, but also willing to consider solutions others might deem unconventional. This goes back to a CEO’s willingness to take risks and the importance of that quality in leading a company to success.

Problem solving

Fast problem-solving quality in a CEO is greatly demanded and appreciated in an organization. No one trusts or respects a leader who lets a problem hang on, or who doesn’t address an operational issue quickly. Just do it – consistently and fairly. Trust happens every day and starts at the top. It takes mindfulness and action. Once it’s established, you can throw all of the social events you want.

Ethics & Integrity

“Good CEOs do the right thing, not the thing that feels right,” says Benton.

Sometimes that means having to admit mistakes and make amends. Take Steve Wasik, CEO of SIGG reusable water bottles, who had made a public apology for not disclosing that trace amounts of BPA had been found in the bottle’s liners years ago. The company even opened an exchange program, where SIGG bottle owners could trade in their old bottles for the newer, BPA – free ones. Companies profoundly cherish such ethical traits in their CEOs.

Strategical & Outside-the-box Thinking

The CEO must be able to make long-term plans and initiate tactics to reach goals. Although the CEO has to react to a changing business environment, the ability to pursue an unchanging strategy in spite of day-to-day pressures characterizes an effective leader. It is also important to think outside the box, with the constantly changing markets, because sometimes there are better ways to achieve business goals. Sometimes, the same tried and true methods don’t always work. When a CEO thinks outside the box, it makes them and their company stand out to customers and prospects.

Decision Making

Lastly, the mark of a strong leader is the capacity to be effective on a consistent basis. A CEO does not just need to be just comfortable making decisions, those decisions must be good ones. A person being considered as a CEO must demonstrate an ability to lead the company to higher profits, greater market share, and an outstanding reputation.

There are several other factors that add to the qualifications of a good CEO, such as experience, but these key traits will keep you ahead of the curve. If you are lacking in any of these areas, researching personal improvement skills, learning from other executives, or investing in a business mentor are also great ways to grow personally and professionally.

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