26 Oct 2017

I was asked recently if I had some material on what qualities a CEO should possess, I said that I did and I thought that I would share it more widely with you.

We have done a good deal of work in this area and developed a generic Leadership Profiler for senior managers to use when assessing managers for promotion, I would also be happy to share that with you – you will find the link here.

In the basic work on leadership qualities we do not differentiate between CEO, COO Senior Manager etc. and put forward the proposition that some qualities are required at all levels and promotion up through the organisation to CEO requires that individuals possess these qualities.

Having made this caveat, the CEO must surely have special qualities and if this is true, what are they?

  1. Number One – The CEO has to be demonstrably a ‘Number One’ personality. You and I can offer up examples of people who have similarly impressive credentials, sufficient experience, the intellectual horsepower needed and yet one will have that extra something that clearly sets them apart as CEO material. They are Alpha people and have a willingness to be so
  2. External Vision – an ability to envisage how the market will work and what opportunities will be revealed. This is true ‘Vision’ and is associated with the world outside the business
  3. A sense of ‘Purpose’. We use the word ‘Purpose’ as code for mission and ‘the big company idea’. You can also interpret this as the headline strategic aim and is sometimes incorrectly termed Company Vision. See more on this in my previous blogs
  4. These people can create a culture of demand at all levels. They have a restless feeling of general dissatisfaction about performance that leads them to relentlessly challenge the organisation to be better
  5. In addition to the above, they have the ability to challenge the most talented senior managers to achieve more – a person who can challenge their best to be better!
  6. A person with a suitably appropriate sense of principles and values and a willingness to defend them

OK it’s that simple! Think you can be CEO – look down the list again and make an assessment of your strength in each of the six points 1-5.

Anything at 3 or under 3 requires urgent work, anything at 4 is work in progress, anything at 5 is bankable.

To learn more, consider enrolling of our Governing Change programme which begins in London on Thursday 16th November.