24 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 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-Be a Storyteller

Photo Credit: Mitch Grasso

As CEOs, we’re constantly delivering presentations, whether it’s to investors, the board, prospects, our employees and even our peers. Facts and figures are important parts of every presentation, but they aren’t going to draw in your audience or make your information memorable. Weaving stories into your presentations will. Storytellers are more successful at building deeper connections with their audiences, gaining their empathy and winning their trust. It may not be a skill that CEOs prioritize, but more should.

Thanks to Mitch Grasso, Beautiful.AI!

#2-A CEO must have calm and patience

Photo Credit: Andrei Vasilescu

When you are honoring the chair of CEO of a business, then you must have the calm and patience in adequate quantity. Without these two things, you’re most likely to lose control in hard times and hard times come frequently in any entrepreneurship. In critical situations your calmness will help you to fathom the proper magnitude of the situations and your patience will help you to take the rightest decisions at right moments. So keeping calm and having patience are two essential skills of a CEO.

Thanks to Andrei Vasilescu, DontPayFull!

#3- Optimistic

Photo Credit: Steve Pritchard

Many skills are needed be become a successful CEO, but one of the most important is to be optimistic and to inspire others. If you don’t believe in yourself, or the company, why should anyone else? There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, so make sure you inspire your employees, without making reckless decisions.

Thanks to Steve Pritchard, It Works media!

#4- Several skills

Photo Credit: James Lloyd-Townshend

The business landscape is changing faster than ever before. CEOs need to be flexible, and able to roll with the punches. Entrepreneurs today face rapidly developing technology, shifting consumer expectations, and a fluctuating economy. Business leaders have to be able not only to live with a certain amount of ambiguity, but to triumph over it. Being adaptable is key here. Lead with the goal, and treat your strategy as a fluid, organic thing that must continuously evolve to survive. Your core values should be uncompromising, but how you achieve your goals doesn't have to be.

Thanks to James Lloyd-Townshend, Nigel Frank International!

#5- Resilience, self-awareness, and perseverance

Photo Credit: Kristin Marquet

Resilience is a useful trait to have, especially in today's culture and society. Resilient people don't get angry or give in to despair when challenged by a setback. They don't let negative situations stand in their way of moving forward. Instead, they have the ability to bounce back from adversity or tragedy, which is crucial to succeeding in both life and in business. Having a strong sense of self improves judgment, facilitates better decision making, and helps to identify opportunities for both personal and professional growth and development. These improvements create better leaders. Perseverance is committing to completing a task, even if a difficult circumstance may try to prevent you from finishing it. Resilient leaders show perseverance in spite of obstacles, hardship, or discouragement. Ultimately, it's the decision not to give up, despite how challenging or difficult things get.

Thanks to Kristin Marquet,!

#6- Critical and creative thinking

Photo Credit: Viktor Viktorov

One of the most important steps in building a successful business is finding the inefficiencies in the existing market and coming up with new innovative solutions. Therefore, a good CEO should have a good combination of critical and creative thinking. It is important to know the environment you are dealing with, see the opportunities where others don’t, be inventive and generate original ideas that will benefit your target audience.

Thanks to Viktor Viktorov, REINNO!

#7- Treating people with dignity

Photo Credit: Dave Ramsey

None of us get to the end of our lives and think we should have done one more deal or made one more dollar; when your life draws to a close you realize what's important: people and how you treated them. Of course as the CEO, it's important you have integrity, predictability, vision, passion, and you lead by example. But people only allow themselves to be led when they feel valued and when they are treated with dignity. It's tops among our core values and operating principles at Ramsey Solutions.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey

#8- Leadership experience

Photo Credit: Don Fox

Having a solid understanding of what drives both revenue and profitability for the enterprise is critical; first-hand experience in the operational aspect of the business is invaluable. The CEO should also have broad enough knowledge of the other business disciplines that enable them to ask the right questions. Leadership qualities count: Lead by example, trust your people (though trust is earned), hold people accountable, maintain optimism, and always be fair.

Thanks to Don Fox, Firehouse Subs!

#9- Ability to manage everyone else

Photo Credit: James Philip

Of all the successful CEO’s I know, a key trait I have witnessed is the ability to manage everyone else while also taking care of your own responsibilities. This is an essential component of any great manager or leader. You often must be selfless while also keeping your eye on the ball for your own projects and concerns. Another ability that extends far beyond emotional intelligence is simply taking the extra time to get to know your staff. It’s one thing to have EQ but making a genuine connection takes it to a whole new level especially once you understand what makes their hair blow back and what motivates them. Unfortunately, many executives get a “white glove complex” once they make it into the C-suite and start to think they shouldn’t spend time with the people in the lower rungs of the hierarchy. Though this will take some extra effort on your part, it is necessary if you want your people to believe in you and your leadership.

Thanks to James Philip, Heavy Hitter Holdings!

#10- Emotional intelligence and accepting imperfection

Photo Credit: Rick Snyder

Emotional intelligence is no longer optional in roles of leadership, in business or other sectors. Being a people-person and having excellent communication skills based on honesty and transparency are a must. The more you can intuit the needs of your team, culture, and customers, the more you can steer growth in the most optimal way. One last factor is to accept that you are not perfect, that you will make mistakes, and a real leader can own these with others and work together on solutions to truly move forward. This is inspiring for your whole team to witness and gains even more trust, credibility, and loyalty over time.

Thanks to Rick Snyder, Invisible Edge(tm)!

#11- Open and honest communication

Photo Credit: Amber Duncan

One skill set that I depend on heavily is the ability to foster open and honest communication with my team. I strive to create an environment that is authentic in nature and that creates the space necessary for employees to comfortably share without fear of response. When an organization does this right, it becomes part of their culture. They are truly unstoppable and no obstacle is too big to overcome.

Thanks to Amber Duncan, Jackie!

#12- Evolve as the company grows

Photo Credit: Tae Hea Nahm

The CEO role evolves more than any other as a company grows. In my book Survival to Thrival: Change or Be Changed, I give analogies for the essential skills at different stages: In the founding stage of a startup, the CEO needs to be like Wonder Woman. They need to lead a small devoted platoon through the woods. They will do be hands-on and Œdo it all. By day they will be pitching to clients, by night they will be writing code. When the company goes above around 40 employees, they need to be more like Captain America leading the Avengers. Each part of the company will be led by a superhero ­ a sales superhero, a marketing superhero, a product superhero etc. They can all do their jobs better than the CEO, so the CEO needs to relinquish control and instead focus on delegating and maintaining accountability. Their main focus should be on creating go-to-market-fit (a unique formula to scale). Above 200 people, the CEO role changes again. They become like Professor X and the X Men, or like a dean at a university. They preside over an army. They will do fewer things but for a lot more people and will repeat themselves a lot. The main focus should be providing vision, driving the company towards its top-level goals and making sure the right people are in the right roles.

Thanks to Tae Hea Nahm, Storm Ventures!

#13- Attracting talented people

Photo Credit: Shahram Zarshenas

One of the most important factors in building a business is having the ability to create a well-rounded team of talented people. As the CEO you need to be able to attract these talented people to come work with you. Your job is to inspire them, so they believe in your vision enough to forgo other great opportunities. This will allow you to build a team of talented individuals that succeed in their roles and ultimately carry the business to success. Without the right people, even the greatest businesses die.

Thanks to Shahram Zarshenas, Financial Cents!

#14- The art of feedback

Photo Credit: Trevor Wolfe

The most important skills for a CEO to master is the art of feedback. Although there is no official training in school or on the job of how to give and receive feedback, it is vital for you to get a feel for what's happening on the ground, how you can be improving as a leader and a business, and how you could be improving your customer experience. Whether you're making time for 1-on-1s, asking for feedback about your performance, or spending time on the road with your customers, feedback is the fuel to the continuous improvement of your leadership style and your bottom line.

Thanks to Trevor Wolfe, BigTeam!

#15- Self- awareness

Photo Credit: Samanah Duran

I believe that having self-awareness as a CEO plays a pivotal role in the success you want your business to achieve. I would always advise that CEO’s should spend time observing and reflecting upon themselves and in order to improve their own personal development. Learn to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and use them to set an example for your team. I always advise anyone who is on that entrepreneurial journey to constantly read new books, attend new conferences and spend time around other CEO's in which you can learn and grow from.

Thanks to Samanah Duran, BEYOUROWN!

#16- Persistence

Photo Credit: Jason Parks

There are so many rejections you get as a CEO of a company. From dealing with clients and customers to employees and vendors, you'll get turned down with something on nearly a daily basis. You need to have thick skin and be able to get beyond the rejection. This can be done by figuring out a solution to the existing problem or moving past the issue and finding an alternative solution. Most importantly, you have to learn from your mistakes and rejections so you can continue to grow. If you are persistent and positive, the possibilities are endless.

Thanks to Jason Parks, Cleveland Marketing King!

#17-Time Management

Photo Credit: Ross Davies

Effective time management is a key skill for all CEOs – you’ll find that you have too many things to do, and too little time to do them otherwise! My particular approach has really helped me structure my time more efficiently. I devote particular days to particular groups of tasks – Mondays are for financial work and business planning, Tuesdays and Thursdays are devoted to project work and meeting with clients, and Wednesdays and Fridays are dedicated to sales. This means less time jumping between different jobs, and allows me to get similar tasks out of the way quickly and efficiently.

Thanks to Ross Davies, Strafe Creative!

#18- Two skills

One essential skill one should possess to be a CEO is being up for the challenge. In other words, taking the past of least resistance isn't the way to be a CEO. A CEO when faced with a challenge takes it on full steam ahead. In addition, a CEO must be willing and able to learn. People, in general, continue to learn throughout their lives. A CEO is no different and must not have the feeling that they already know everything because nobody does.

Thanks to Jason Kay, Retreaver!

#19- Openness to learning

Photo Credit: Dewayne Hamilton

This may sound like something counterintuitive, but the biggest trait of a, hopefully, successful CEO should be the fact they're the stupidest person in the room. Or at least, they should adopt a mindset where they're acknowledging the fact other people may have something to teach them. It's been often said that our company reflects our own traits and shortcoming. Surround yourself with intelligent, hardworking and ambitious people and you might learn and grow from the experience. That doesn't mean you should be confident in your own abilities, but you should be aware there's always someone out there who can aid you in exploring your own limits and even help you go past them.

Thanks to Dewayne Hamilton, Web Cosmo Forums!

#20-It is OK to not get everything done

Photo Credit: Fiona Gilbert

Life happens. Three hours on the phone with PayPal or the bank or the logistic company happens. It then becomes a skill to say, OK, I have handled all the fires today, I am going to rest and deal with the rest tomorrow.

Thanks to Fiona Gilbert, Quanta Therapies!

#21- Excellent listener

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

Be an excellent listener. Always listen more instead of rushing to talk over others. If you let others talk to you, you can learn about their thoughts, ideas, and ways they want to help your business succeed. Additionally, this strengthens your relationship with all your team members. All around, I believe that listening is critical because it is through listening that you can identify opportunities.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#22- A number of traits and skills

Photo Credit: Dr. Doug Lind

Knowing the business, planning and organizing, financial acumen, communications proficiency, etc. all are key to be a successful CEO. And in some industries – i.e. technology – having specific technical knowledge is a prerequisite. Additionally, in my work with CEO's over the years, ‘character’ emerges as the real defining factor in the success of the individual and ultimately the organization. For better or worse, the CEO's character will permeate through the entire organization. So, what are some of those character traits? Being able to articulate a larger purpose for the business and its employees; having a vision of the destination and motivating people to move in that direction; being authentic to build trust; humility; empathy; ego suppression; and lastly, having grace under pressure with a non-anxious presence.

Thanks to Dr. Doug Lind, Clearwater Business Advisers!

#23- Positive attitude, research and planning

Photo Credit: Andrea Loubier

One thing that can make or break your road to success is your attitude. No one is ever going to receive a yes to every question. I begin networking and fundraising as if my life depends on it whenever I leave a meeting that I'm not 110 percent happy about, seeing each missed connection as an opportunity to get out there and work even harder. You're also going to need to research and plan – never jump into a market without real-world testing and the assurance that you know the particular nuances that can change within each market. You'll quickly find that being prepared is one of the key elements of running a successful business. Lastly, you'll need to be very selective when picking your rockstar support team. Search for people who have different strengths. That way, you can delegate things that are just a bit out of your wheelhouse to them.

Thanks to Andrea Loubier, Mailbird!

#24- Ability to scout and hire great talents

Photo Credit: Kennedy Cee

In my experience, one of the core skills a CEO needs in order to be effective is the ability to scout and hire great talents. Any great company is built by great people. The best company hires the best people, while the second best company hires the second best people. Another critical skill that makes you a more effective CEO is empathy for your people. When your employees know that you truly care about how they feel, their opinion and what drives them, they want to give their very best to you. When you treat your employees well, they treat your business well. If you let your employees feel neglected, your company will suffer. Another great skill that makes you an effective CEO is leadership by example. If you expect your employees to work their butts off, be sure to show them how by leading the way. If you want them to get great results in their work, show them how by getting great results yourself. These 3 alone will make you an outstanding CEO.

Thanks to Kennedy Cee, Clients Oasis!

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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