Do you aspire to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of your company someday? Truth is, that’s not easy, so stick around as an employee and you’d be satisfied with a paycheck. But, come on, CEO? That’s awesome. So what makes one a CEO?
From having an idea to starting a company to running it, holding board meetings now and then, and well…, what else, isn’t the skillset of a CEO? Like every profession, it takes years of experience to rise from beginner to expert. Here are five traits that really say you’re having the skillset of a CEO.
Related media: 15 Skills All CEOs Master
Becoming A CEO 101
According to venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, CEOs are made, not born. Most of the prerequisites of becoming a CEO can even be achieved by yourself. No formal training is required. Becoming a great leader definitely takes a whole lot of practice, you just can’t achieve this through hard work.
A great leader isn’t someone who is naturally good at the job, however, some fundamental mindsets are a prerequisite for getting ahead. So what makes a CEO? According to experts, you need these basics before you can even start thinking of yourself as a potential CEO.
#1. You Constantly Learn
Obviously! What can you even achieve without learning? Nothing! This is even evident among the most successful entrepreneurs you can think of — Gates, Musk, Oprah, Buffett, and…, who are we missing? Uh, you. All of these business icons acknowledge that he or she is a perpetual learner.
If you need proof, there are tons of evidence to back up this idea, too. Research says that you’re more likely to reach the peak of an organization if you’re versatile with several roles — from finance to customer care — rather than building expertise in just one department you’re comfortable with.
“Evidence suggests that success in the business world isn’t just about brain power or climbing a linear path to the top,” as Neil Irwin writes in an article for The New York Times, “but about accumulating diverse skills and showing an ability to learn about fields outside one’s comfort zone.”
#2. You Often Play Dumb
Well, CEOs are smart. Obviously! Running a company takes a certain degree of intelligence (not academic). But why do you need to play dumb? If you think you know it all, then you don’t have to learn anymore (see #1 in this list), but having the ability to even learn more than you know already, is exactly what makes you a CEO. Other than that, forget it, you’re too dumb, duh?
Great leadership is having the humility to respect the views of others (even if they’re your subordinates) by acknowledging your weaknesses. You just have to accept being the dumbest person in the room. It’s Okay!
As entrepreneur Kevin Johnson writes, “The average person is intimidated by smart people … If given a choice to spend a week quarantined with really smart people or people of average intelligence, the average Jane would choose people of average intelligence.”
However, if you’re CEO material, you’d rather feel dumb being around smart people than being a brilliant king who wouldn’t be hailed in a kingdom of idiots.
Johnson says he always looks forward to making a super smart friend. “They make me feel inadequate and sometimes just really stupid,” he writes, “but I am OK with that, because I know that I learn so much from them.”
#3. You Will Chase A Dream No Matter What
If you’re not ever ready to pursue your dreams at all costs, then forget it, you’re not a CEO. Call this stubbornness and Elon Musk will tell you that’s an understatement. Yes! How does he deal with risk?
He doesn’t hit the fear button. Never! He once told an interviewer that he was absolutely terrified of the risk involved in the insane project of trying to colonize Mars.
“I feel fear quite strongly,” he reported.
But has he given up? No! He’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated. Period! Whenever he’s faced with terrible odds, he doesn’t resort to irrational optimism, rather he assesses all the long-term odds of potential failure he’s facing, but will carry on as he anticipates.
“When starting SpaceX, I thought the odds of success were less than 10 percent,” Musk continued, “and I just accepted that actually probably I would just lose everything. But that maybe we would make some progress.”
According to Bob Scoble, the hallmark of great CEOs is having an open-eyed risk assessment and a willingness to dare pursue a goal by all means.
He wrote on Quora the ideal CEO, is “assured of the achievability of long-term goals yet nervous about the attainability of near-term milestones. This schizophrenic mindset ensures that an entrepreneur maintains an unyielding belief in the manifestation of their vision while never taking for granted the execution of their startup’s most basic tasks.”
#4. You Often Get Obsessed
Also known as quality passion, or the ability to focus by some entrepreneurs; it is seen as that daring attitude that requires all your attention to latch onto interesting questions or problems, shut out any distractions, and work your ass off until the mission is accomplished.
As a young programmer, Bill Gates was found working long hours until he started dozing off at his keyboard. He’ll then wake, look up straight, buzz himself off for a while, and get right back to work again. That’s insane!
As Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston puts this metaphor of a tennis ball and his dog, he says:
“The tennis ball is about finding the thing you’re obsessed with. The most successful people and successful entrepreneurs I know are all obsessed with solving a problem that really matters to them. I use the tennis ball for that idea because of my dog, who gets this crazy, obsessed look on her face when you throw the ball for her.”
Call this craziness and you’d never give up on a pet theory, ever.
#5. You Can Tell A Great Story
Like what? You want to run a business, but why do you need to be an amazing storyteller like George R.R. Martin? (He wrote ‘Game of Thrones,’ y’all!) Humans are renowned for being easily swayed by a convincing idea.
Don’t look any further for evidence if you’ve ever witnessed a political discussion. Get it! So if you want to convince the masses that your products or services are the best, you need to appeal to emotions. And nothing arouses our emotions as much as a great tale.
Scoble said it best:
“CEOs have to deal with conflicting interest groups. Customers often want something investors don’t. So a good CEO is really great at convincing other people to get on board, even at changing people’s opinions.”
Let us know if you’re a CEO or aspiring to be an entrepreneur.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Oct 01, 2021.