Qualities of CEOs

The Straits Times published a piece entitled “What makes a good chief executive officer (CEO)?” written by Gabriel Chen on 15 June 2009.

It listed 4 qualities of a successful CEO:

Desire and energy

This relates to desire or will to achieve, the energy, and the intellect.

Makes tough calls

CEO must dare to make hard decisions, even unpleasant ones such as lay-offs. Having made the decision he must have the ability to communicate across the organisation and explain the rationale for the decision.


Integrity is a must-have quality for a CEO. He has to take the responsibility and be accountable for the actions of the organisation.

Together with integrity, CEOs must be willing to trust others and care for the welfare of their employees.


Vision and strategy

CEO must have dreams and vision. He can formulate strategies with a clear mission of achieving the vision. Once the vision and mission is in place, he should be able to communicate and motivate employees towards the common goals.

Some traits are not so critical

What caught my attention in the article is these two statements:

“According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as CEOs, while organised, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to achieve success in the C-suite.

Mr Brooks, in a recent opinion piece, said traits such as being a good listener, a good team builder and a great communicator do not seem very important when it comes to leading successful firms.”

If this is the observation, then people with warm personality traits will not make it to the CEO’s chair. These people can only play second fiddle to the CEOs. It might be better because it will be misery if the emphathetic people rise to CEO and have to be tough with his own staff and be competitive. It is not in their nature.


My view is that the four quailities are well and good for the organisation. One additional quality will be for CEOs to spend time to connect with his people. CEOs do not operate in isolation and people are the ones that execute his vision and help the organisation to realise his dreams.

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