First of all, there is a big difference between being hired as CEO of a well-established company and building something from scratch, from the ground up, from nothing to something, from an idea into a successful operation.
Are You Cut Out to be a CEO?
There are overlapping skills, but there are some primary differences in the skill-set. I am not indicating that one is better than the other, but they do have their distinctions. For the entrepreneur or CEO, the ability to take a singular thought – a unique vision – and build it into a living breathing reality is an admirable skill indeed. The tendency to reject “how it’s always been done” and think and do differently despite the critical atmosphere of those who “know better” is often the mark of a successful entrepreneur or CEO.
Are you cut out to be a CEO? Only YOU can answer that, but here are some characteristics and guidelines you may want to pay attention to in your quest for prosperity:
Any CEO must understand that he or she is offering something that people need or want in exchange for money, etc. You are delivering something for something. The action of trade or commerce is central to any business. You’d think this goes without saying, but many people seem to miss this. They cease to deliver or they fail to deliver with courtesy or efficiency and they suddenly or gradually cease to exist. A CEO and any leader should fully grasp these concepts.
Many a CEO is a virtual encyclopedia in his or her given field. They know the business. You can’t fool them. The knowledge may have come from school but more than likely it was hard-won and borne out of experience in the trenches. The CEO uses knowledge and experience in making the crucial decisions and they know that it isn’t just what you do, but when you do it – timing is crucial.
The level of output, action and energy of the CEO is very often significantly higher than the average. This is not to say that there is a specific personality type that equates to a leader or CEO. I’ve seen all types from the high-octane go-getter to the eternally stoic and level-headed. The natural leader just seems to get more done in less time, but the methods and approach tend to differ.
In addition to just plain getting more done comes the indispensable ability to delegate to others and see to it that what has been delegated actually gets done. “Micromanagement” has a negative connotation as it is not really delegation. The micromanager never really trusts anyone and must monitor every single detail in an obsessive fashion. There is nothing wrong with monitoring details, but if you have done your hiring and training correctly, you should be able to assign work to others and be reasonably confident that they know what they are doing. When you properly delegate, you can focus on the big picture and the future.
A leader has the uncanny ability to motivate others. There are different types of motivation. One is the “threat” which has some limited use, but is not much good in the long run and is heavily abused by those who are too myopic and inept to use the finer arts. The preferred and vastly more effective methods are communication, inspiration, camaraderie, cooperation and other high-level skills. The CEO can motivate others to action in the spirit of teamwork and mutual support.
The CEO should be able to envision the future and actualize that which is envisioned. It is one thing to have a dream, but to be able to hammer out that dream into the real world is something else entirely. It takes smart planning, industriousness, resilience, a strong sense of purpose, adaptability and intelligence amongst other things.
A CEO doesn’t have a “Look what they did to me!” mentality. He or she has an attitude of accountability and responsibility toward life. They assume that if things go right or wrong it is because of what they do or do not do. Instead of shaking an accusative finger, they simply work out the best course of action for the given situation – and they take that action. They may not always be right, but they will often be the first to admit that fact.
A competent CEO will possess a high level of personal integrity. If they believe something is wrong, they will say so. This doesn’t mean they are hypercritical, but they won’t back down from what they believe is right. Being honest with themselves and others is integral to their mindset and conduct. If they promise something, they will keep their word. If they are going to be late, etc., they’ll inform you. A good CEO should be able to impart these positive qualities to others and ideally these virtues would permeate the brand and the business.
What is money? It is a SYMBOL. It represents a THING, a SERVICE, something of value that is EXCHANGED for something else of value. When you lose sight of that, you lose sight of the basics of commerce. Even a not-for-profit entity needs money in order to operate and accomplish its purposes. A for-profit entity is not “making money.” It is engaged in an interchange of THINGS or SERVICES for which it receives a SYMBOL called “money” that represents value. When people are “in charge” that do not grasp this, we get things like unchecked inflation where money has less and less value. Any leader or CEO must be able to wrap their wits around this simple subject.
A quality of many a leader is the sense of necessity and urgency. While others may appear nonchalant or even lackadaisical, the leader is genuinely invested in the activity and wants to see it move forward on a “right now” basis. Not to say that others do not possess this level of necessity, but it is certainly notable in the entrepreneur and the CEO. They simply want to get it done NOW and preferably get it RIGHT the first time!
One of the most valuable traits of the CEO (or anyone for that matter) is the ability to continuously create something no matter what. Try this experiment (or maybe don’t try it): Leave a car unattended for a few months. Just ignore it and see what happens. It will collect dust and cobwebs; it will rust; it may not even start; it will decay. That is because no one is CREATING that car. No one is taking care of it or putting any LIFE into it. An old jalopy is still running after 300 thousand miles because someone is CREATING it and injecting LIFE into it. As soon as they start ignoring it, it will fall apart.
The same is true of any object, any action, any business, anything. A project or company requires continuous CREATION which is often forwarded from the top down, but will only continue when it works at all levels.
Don’t worry if you looked over these traits and decided “That couldn’t possibly be me!” No one could be expected to possess all these qualities right off the bat. Starting and operating a new project or company is terrifying and adventurous, full of uncertainty and promise in equal measure. You can look over these traits and decide if they are something you wish to aspire to. You can reject them and use your own system. But no matter what, don’t lose your sense of adventure.