What makes a great CEO?

updates + insights » What makes a great CEO?

Anecdotally we can probably all compile a list of traits or behaviours of leaders based on our experiences working alongside an ‘exceptional’ CEO. But does the stereotype of the strong visionary leader correlate with what the research tells us around high performing CEOs?

Let’s look at a snapshot of research in this space…

McKinsey & Company

Global management consultancy McKinsey & Company looked at the top 5 percent (in terms of performance) of CEOs at S&P 500 companies. They identified three predictors of success. 

  1. The outsider’s edge: exceptional CEOs are twice as likely to be hired from outside the company. Internal appointments that were high performers did so through cultivating an outsider’s point of view to challenge culture with greater objectivity.
  2. Strategic actions: CEOs with exceptional track records are more likely than others to conduct a strategic review early in their tenure. This also led to actions around changing strategic direction.
  3. Organisational balance: organisation redesign appeared to be a critical part of the typical high-performing CEO’s tool kit; however, this was less likely to occur during the first two years in the role.

The CEO Genome

Research from leadership advisory firm ghSmart shows four behaviours more consistently lead to high performance among CEOs. 

  1. Deciding with speed and conviction: high-performing CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive.
  2. Engaging for impact: CEOs who excel at bringing others along plan and execute disciplined communications and influencing strategies.
  3. Adapting proactively: successful CEOs sense change earlier and make strategic moves to take advantage of it.
  4. Delivering reliably: 94% of the strong CEO candidates analysed scored high on consistently following through on their commitment.

The CEO Tightrope

Joel Trammell, author of The CEO Tightrope, highlights three essential traits required of CEOs to lead effectively. 

  1. Credibility: telling the truth 90 percent of the time is not much better than telling the truth 10 percent of the time.
  2. Competence: CEOs need to own the vision, provide the proper resources, build the culture, make good decisions and deliver performance.
  3. Caring: showing that the CEO puts the organisation above themselves.

For Boards looking to hire a new leader or for a CEO transitioning into a new role, there are clear lessons to be learnt from above. Whether its unbiased insight, having a surer perspective or leading with authenticity – there are behaviours universal to success.

Decipher Group have their finger on the pulse of changing trends in the recruitment and people space. If you are looking for direction and assistance on unearthing and retaining the right talent for your business, get in touch with us.    

The Decipher Team       

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