What makes an excellent CEO? Standard leadership traits come to mind – initiative, skill, dedication – all of which are important in a CEO, but are not the only factors in a truly unique, admired and successful leader. What other values are important in a corporate leader, both for the employees of a CEO’s company and for the general public?
A great CEO is…
… Someone who sets an example
For a corporate leader, there are many ways to define “setting an example.” First, a CEO can set a personal example for his or her employees, setting the tone in the company for work ethic, good character, creativity and professionalism based on how he or she acts on a daily basis. Many employees look to their CEO for the gold standard.
A CEO also has the ability to set an example on behalf of the company. As a leader, especially for a well-known company, the CEO has the responsibility to act as a spokesperson for the company. Based on conduct, a CEO can influence – positively or negatively – the public image of the company.
Finally, a CEO can set an example by acknowledging and engaging in responsibilities outside of his or her own company, through corporate social responsibility or by encouraging employees to be involved in and give back to their communities.
… Someone who values his or her employees
No matter the size of the company, a good CEO must demonstrate that he or she values the employees and their contributions to the company. Based on the number of employees, there are various ways to show this appreciation:
If a CEO is leading a small company, does he or she interact regularly with all of the employees? Does he or she seek the opinions and advice of employees, and thoughtfully acknowledge the contributions of each employee, no matter their position? If so, these are signs of a good CEO.
If a CEO is leading a large company, does he or she effectively communicate to hundreds (and possibly thousands) of employees that they are all valued? Does he or she have an influence on how the various levels of management interact, so that guidance is distributed on a personalized and individual level? If so, these are signs of a good CEO.
… Someone who has gravitas
Gravitas is a foundational element of Executive Presence. Gravitas itself is a set of characteristics, which include confidence, decisiveness, integrity, emotional intelligence, reputation and vision. All of these traits are essential in a successful CEO.
Whether employees are on a first-name basis with their CEO or have never even met their CEO, they need to trust that their CEO can handle pressure from all sides and will steer the company with grace and foresight. Gravitas embodies the myriad components of a great leader.
Acknowledging Great CEOs
National and international accolades honour corporate leaders who demonstrate exemplary qualities. One such award is the Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year program, for executives in Canadian business who have led their companies to achieve global excellence while maintaining trust and integrity.
Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year selection criteria include Vision and Leadership, Corporate Performance, Global Competitiveness, Innovative Business Achievements and Social Responsibility. What are your criteria for an outstanding CEO? Have you worked for an excellent CEO, and what were his or her best qualities? Share your experience in the comments below!