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15 Entrepreneurs Explain The Essential Skills One Needs To Be a CEO

There are skills one has to adapt to be an effective and efficient CEO and anyone can be a CEO. “It's within everyone's grasp to be a CEO” Martha Stewart. The most common skills are decision making being the leader of the team and communication. Some CEOs are born with the skills while others have to acquire them through consistent practice. As a CEO, you have to remind yourself its not always about you and practice servant-leadership in most cases. We asked entrepreneurs what critical skills one must have to be a CEO and here are the awesome responses.

#1- Three skills

Photo Credit: Alan LaFrance

Being a great leader is the core trait of any strong CEO, and to be a great leader you have to learn how to do these three things: listen, communicate, and motivate. You cannot truly understand the barriers without first listening, and you cannot overcome them without motivating the organization to act through clear and effective communication.

Thanks to Alan LaFrance, Lawnstarter!

#2- Empathy

Photo Credit: Gene Caballero

You need to have the ability to relate to your employees and be able to put yourself in the soul of the people. Without the empathetic trait, it's very hard to rally your troupes around your vision.

Thanks to Gene Caballero, GreenPal!

#3-You've got to hire great people

Photo Credit: Jim Fitzgerald

We just don't bring anyone into Taradel. We're always looking for smart, creative people. If you find smart and creative people who are self-motivated, you have the backbone for success. When I started the business 14 years ago, it was just me. We now have over 30 full-time employees and are pushing towards $20M in annual sales. Hiring solid people is an essential skill. That's why we've made the Inc. 5000 for 11 consecutive years, and become one of the nation's leading integrated marketing companies.

Thanks to Jim Fitzgerald, Taradel LLC!

#4-See the glass half full-Positivity

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

I've long embraced positivity as a small business owner and I can't imagine running a company with any other attitude. Being positive is about more than seeing the glass half full. It disarms so many because it's not expected. That's a great thing, actually, because it turns entire mindsets around. Positivity and optimism, especially when it's genuine, is contagious. If you walk the positive walk and talk the talk, you'll find it attracts like-minded individuals towards you and your business.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#5- See the bigger picture and pivot when needed

Photo Credit: Anamaria Scuric

One of the essential skills that every CEO must have is the ability to see the bigger picture and know when to pivot if needed. A pivot is not a simple change based on a hunch, but a structured experiment to test a hypothesis about the future growth of the business. So a CEO must not only have a deep knowledge of the industry trends, company operations and customer needs but also needs to be willing to take a company in a different direction if that is what the market is looking for. A lot of times CEO want to push for their vision, even when the statistics show otherwise.

Thanks to Anamaria Scuric, Travelpreneur Tribe!

#6- A number of skills

Photo Credit: Ashley Bowers

Whether a leader is a gregarious promoter, the charismatic charmer, the tireless creator or the quiet perfectionist, possessing certain attributes help leaders rise to the top and draw people toward them. Great leaders are socially and self-aware, practice consistency, keep their word, lead by example and practice optimism and empathy. Regardless of title, a person who gives more than they take, can maintain a high level of emotional intelligence day in and day out, and stays positive more than negative can be an excellent leader.

Thanks to Ashley Bowers, TTI Success Insights!

#7- Two competencies

Photo Credit: Karen Tiber Leland

Create a strong CEO brand and shore up your executive presence. Executive presence is that powerful combination of competency, character and charisma that leads to a meaningful ability to influence and engage others, create authentic connection and inspire high performance. In fact one study showed that 48 percent of a company’s reputation can be attributed to the standing of its CEO. Like it or not, today’s CEO has been pre-cast in the role of their company’s chief brand ambassador. For many CEO’s the key to integrating this into their role is to create a parallel brand. A parallel brand is the perfect blend of a CEO’s personal and company brands. While remaining distinct, these two brands should work in concert and complement, not conflict with, the business brand.

Thanks to Karen Tiber Leland, Sterling Marketing Group!

#8- Identify the right talent

Photo Credit: Ray McKenzie

A CEO has to be an expert in one skill and very strong across several areas of a business to lead effectively. The most essential skill to be the CEO of a company is the ability to evaluate talent and place talent in the right position within the business. A CEO has to lead the entire organization and have a more than capable team in place to execute the strategy across departments. The ability to identify leaders with growth potential and leaders with experience is a key attribute.

Thanks to Ray McKenzie, Red Beach Advisors!

#9- Several traits

Photo Credit: Donna J. Spina

The CEO is at the top of the power hierarchy for one primary reason, to oversee, guide, and promote company stabilization, growth, and continuity. Regardless of company size, the price paid for being a CEO means taking all the glory when things go well and all the sizzling heat when not. Responsibility of this enormity is not for just anyone. The CEO must be a leader worth following first. Be resilient to navigate economic storms, neutral to mediate conflict, wise for proactive, futurist thinking, and heart-centered to communicate sensitive matters nurturing trust. The pinnacle of this pyramid is a lonely place. A CEO must understand their own needs and who to confide for means of support to maintain high performance of their demanding duties with consistency.

Thanks to Donna J. Spina, Business Builder Accelerator!

#10- A role model, make timely decisions and control emotions

Photo Credit: Jinal Sampat

Be a role model for your team: Whether you are a CEO of a small business or a large multinational, you should be the person others want to emulate. People observe how the CEO behaves and acts in public and private settings and his/her level of commitment to projects and people. If you slack, your team will slack too. If you set a high bar for yourself, others will do the same. Control your emotions: It is imperative that you control your emotions at all times. If you’re angry or upset about something, take a deep breath and take control of your thoughts and actions immediately. It is not productive for a CEO to express negative emotions in order to build and grow an organization. Make timely decisions: It can be challenging for a CEO to make difficult
decisions without having all the facts straight. But if you allow too much time to pass before gathering all the facts, you’ll miss out on important business opportunities or the issues needing your decision will keep piling on.

Thanks to Jinal Sampat, Sampat Jewellers Inc.!

#11-Patience and Decisiveness

Photo Credit: Shaan Patel

Two skills that to me are dual sides of the same coin are patience and decisiveness. Patience because before making a major decision, whether its strategic, operational, etc., you need to give yourself enough time to gather and evaluate the necessary data to come to the most helpful decision possible. However, the other side of that coin is decisiveness – meaning that every important decision inherently is connected to timeliness. Wait too long and watch an opportunity pass by; move too quickly and also blow an opportunity because it's not ready to go. The point is knowing when to pause and move is essential to everything you do as a CEO eventually.

Thanks to Shaan Patel, Prep Expert!

#12- Vulnerability and authenticity

Photo Credit: Linda Taliaferro

No matter how talented, smart, high the EQ, experienced, known, or connected; one cannot be an EFFECTIVE CEO without the traits of vulnerability and authenticity. Leadership is influence, as best said by John Maxwell. The ability to influence teams to drive initiatives that support a strategic vision. That influence can only be achieved if the leader, the CEO, has the ability to be trusted. They can acknowledge that they are not THE reason. Will admit when they are wrong and apologize or when the frankly don't know the answer. And has no problem asking for help and recognizing it outwardly. Showing this level of vulnerability directly connects to authenticity which establishes trust. This is the ultimate way to be an effective leader and sustain it.

Thanks to Linda Taliaferro, The TEE – The Extra Effort, LLC!

#13-Be purpose-led

Photo Credit: Ben Renshaw

In an era of radical visibility, technology and media have given  individuals the power to stand up for their opinions and beliefs on a grand sale. This power is infiltrating every aspect of people’s lives and in particular, how they engage with CEO’s. As a CEO, you are under the spotlight to build deep trust with employees, customers, and shareholders like never before. Your stakeholders are assessing what your leadership brand says, what it does, and what it stands for. The opportunity lies in building more authentic and meaningful relationships with your stakeholders that shift the focus from “show me you mean it” to “help support the ideals we believe in.” Long-lasting relationships grounded in a common purpose and built around a collective sense of belonging will give you and your company a competitive advantage. Discover your purpose by identifying your core strengths and combining them with the contribution you want to make. For example, Steve Jobs stood for “making a dent in the universe”. Oprah Winfrey stands for “living your best life.” Leading with purpose is the best way to not only feel fulfilled as a CEO, but to connect with others, and be a strong leader.

Thanks to Ben Renshaw

#14- The art of influence

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hardie

I believe that the key skill I have learned, understood and began to practice daily is the art of influence. The ability to make someone want to do something of their own accord not because there is a consequence if they don't but because they are actually influenced by you enough to trust that what you have they need or what you are asking of them is of great benefit to them.

Thanks to Jennifer Hardie, Unstoppable-Jennifer Hardie Ltd.!

#15- Strategy, communication and people

Photo Credit: Matt Cooper

Being a CEO requires you to be able to jump in and out of a wide range of topics quickly, and go from the long term vision to the detailed minutiae of the business. If I had to boil it down to a few things, I think the keys are strategy, communication and people. You need to understand your business and the broader market well enough to develop the right strategy and plan. Once you have that strategy, you have to be able to communicate it to your team in a way that is crystal clear and aligns everyone toward the same goals. Finally, you have to recruit and retain people who are great at their jobs and can deliver progress toward that vision day in, day out.

Thanks to Matt Cooper, Skillshare!

What essential skills do you need to be a CEO? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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