28 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- The ability to respond not react

Photo Credit: Marie Farmer

Whether it’s a PR crisis, hiccups in product rollouts, employee complaints etc. A CEO needs to be able to look at a situation, figure out quickly what the issue really is and then form a plan of action. The difference can be as little as waiting 5 minutes to think and respond to someone instead of firing off an instant message or barking a command that can have unintended consequences.

Thanks to Marie Farmer, Mini Mealtimes!

#2- Several skills

Photo Credit: Brian Robben

I'm convinced they need 33% boldness to even attempt the difficult challenge, 33% patience to see it through, and 33% humility to stick in there when the market, customers, or employees make them look foolish. With boldness you can make an endless amount of offers until you find a fit, with patience you can learn what works and doesn't in selling, systems and processes, and hiring, and with humility you can never be too proud to give up when you're getting your teeth kicked in. All technical skills can be delegated, but these skills need to come directly from the top.

Thanks to Brian Robben, Robben Media!

#3- Delegation

Photo Credit: Dave Ramsey

When done correctly, delegation will become one of your greatest professional joys. Delegation is not where you know how to do something at a high level of excellence so you blindly hand it off to someone hoping that they might do it that way too. That's not delegation; that's stupid. Proper delegation begins with hiring the right people. You've got to find thoroughbreds. If you have a stable full of donkeys, no wonder you don't delegate. I wouldn't either! Hire team members with integrity – people you can trust who in time prove their competency. You can then learn to let go because you are wise, and it's wise to build a team that you can release to, otherwise you have to do everything yourself and that's no fun.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey, Ramsey Solutions!

#4- Passion, agility and innovation

Photo Credit: Dean Guida

While you may have gotten your business started in your dorm room over ramen noodles with dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, the odds are stacked against you. In any complex and disruptive industry, many aren’t passionate, agile and innovative enough to survive. Successful entrepreneurs are driven by passion and commitment to stay the course. My passion was computers. I fell in love with coding – that’s how I ended up in the software industry. I taught myself all the programming languages, from Fortran, C and C++ to Pascal, Assembler and Lisp. But that knowledge wasn’t all I needed to be successful. One of the most important skills an entrepreneur must have is the willingness to adjust. You need agility and out-of-the-box thinking in order to stay one step ahead. In the tech industry there is a lot of disruption: new hardware, new software, updates, etc. What’s popular today could be obsolete tomorrow. Startups and even established companies must be able to pivot, quickly shift and innovate. The ability to adapt is a crucial skill. Problem solving, self-discipline, innovation and flexibility will help you in tackling the challenges – and rewards – of the startup life. The life of an entrepreneur may not be for everyone, but for some, it’s an exhilarating place where you can forge your own path and follow your passion.

Thanks to Dean Guida, Infragistics!

#5- Development

Photo Credit: Morgan Taylor

As a CEO you need to be able to find the best talent and keep it. Part of keeping that talent is enhancing, bringing out people's potential. The best employees need to know that they can grow under the wing of their employer, not remain stagnant at a dead-end job.

Thanks to Morgan Taylor, LetMeBank!

#6- Two traits

Photo Credit: Sean Higgins

The ability to find the positive in any situation. Startups are hard. They are like driving a car in the middle of the desert. Your tank is almost on E, the next gas station is in 100 miles. You can make it. You need the ability to believe that and to find the silver lining and opportunities in any situation. Without a positive mentality, it's easy to call it quits and miss the mark in the face of adversity. 2) The ability of being confrontational. No startup is roses and sunshine. If you are afraid to confront the biggest, scariest problems in your business, then no one will. Taking a look at the issues that can kill your business, whether they are team, product, or sales related is a powerful skill. Can you flush out all of the reasons why your business might fail? What are the most likely causes? Work with your team to address the major concerns.

Thanks to Sean Higgins, BetterYou!

#7- Attracting and improving talent

Photo Credit: Estienne de Beer

A comprehensive checklist of the most essential skills against which one can measure a CEO will evidently be extensive. Arguably the most engaging skill to start with is the ability to attract and energize employees. Next, come their learning and development to levels not thought possible. Successful CEO's continuously gain knowledge of how to improve the essential traits of stellar leadership. They enhance their personal capacity for leading people in the business world. Over a reasonable period, any company is a direct mirror of its leadership. CEO's should be aware that they cannot consistently produce at a higher level without the ongoing development of their own personal leadership skills.

Thanks to Estienne de Beer, S.A. Inspirational Speak!

#8- Patience and learning from mistakes

Photo Credit: Salman Saleem

All CEOs need to have patience when running a business. There will be times where finance, trust break issues can shake the core of business but the CEO needs to keep the nerves calm. If there is chaos in the room, the CEO should identify a place that can divert the negativity from the room to positive vibes. The next essential skill would be to learn from past mistakes to avoid them in the future. Instead of fearing from the mistake, admit it and share your experience with others so you guide others from falling in the same mistake hole through which you climbed out with great difficulties.

Thanks to Salman Saleem, Cloudways!

#9- Emotional intelligence

Photo Credit: Dvorah Graeser

I think emotional intelligence is often overlooked. The journey from individual produces to leader is a mind shift from me to we. Business is a team sport. It is inevitable that those who reach executive management for the sake of their own ego will eventually stumble. There are 3 great mantras to overcome the producer-only mindset. When under pressure, I always recommend executives remind themselves: “It’s not about me,” “I am not my emotions,” and “I have all I need.” These 3 reminders help get the bearings again so you can think about what you’re solving for and how you can remove obstacles for the team to accomplish its mission.

Thanks to Dvorah Graeser, KISSPatent!

#10- Defining your direction

Photo Credit: Dr Shara Cohen

When I started my first company (Euroscicon Ltd) in 2000 I was very cautious. It ran ok for 13 years, and we made a small profit and it was ticking along and paying the bills. I was the diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and as I sat opposite the consultant who told me my diagnosis, my only thought was to get back to work, so that if I died my family would be secure. I started taking more (calculated) risks, as I had nothing to loose and built the company up enough so that I was able to sell to my main competitor a few years later. 7 years on and I have no cancer now and a new company CancerCareParcel. I am not shy of stepping away from the mainstream and making bold decisions in directing the company. My advice for CEOs is to define where you want to be at different time points, do what is needed to get there and acknowlege when you have got to where you wanted to be.

Thanks to Dr Shara Cohen, Cancer Care Parcel!

#11-Grow, Evolve and Adapt

Photo Credit: Jitesh Keswani

I believe that the role of CEO evolves more than any other as a company grows. The book ‘Survival to Thrival: Change or Be Changed' by Bob Tinker and Tae Hea Nahm has explained it through analogies highlighting the essential skills and roles played by a CEO. In the founding stage, the CEO should be hands-on with all the duties; may it be pitching clients or writing codes.  As the company expands, the CEO has to be like Captain America leading his/her ‘Avengers' team. You need to create leaders like sales or marketing superheroes. Your work is to control your team and focus on bigger goals. When you have 200 or more employees, you become like Professor X and help your team in maintaining company goals, vision, and driving it towards top-level goals. Throughout this whole process, a CEO should be willing to adapt and perform better.

Thanks to Jitesh Keswani, e-Intelligence!

#12- Coaching ability

Photo Credit: Shiyang Gong

In my entrepreneurship journey, in hard times, I always tend to behave like a coach of the athletes, who always keep giving positive feedback and coaching to their teams. Despite the failures, they always used to give reminders of bigger goals to their team members for personal as well as professional development. I keep seeking human resource potential and give my employees enough opportunities in which their strength lies. I have seen the consequences of this strategy; the team members start recognizing their potential. They strive to polish their strengths, which leads to company betterment altogether.

Thanks to Shiyang Gong, AILaw.Inc!

#13-Effective Meeting Management

Photo Credit: Tobias Häckermann

Enterprise CEOs spend 45 hours a week in meetings on average. Yet, meeting science shows that around 50% of the time spent in meetings is ineffective. Thus, successful CEOs see meetings as a key leadership instrument and manage them in the best possible way. Here are some tips to avoid wasted time in meetings and speed up the decision-making process: define clear goals for every agenda item, individually prepare and collaborate with peers prior to the meeting, assign concise action items, and give feedback to continuously improve meeting management.

Thanks to Tobias Häckermann, Sherpany!

#14- Collaboration and communication

Photo Credit: Bryan Truong

A CEO is not an island. A successful business requires people to work together. That’s why it’s important that a CEO must also learn the skill of being able to collaborate and communicate effectively his/her co-workers. This all comes into play when it comes to task delegation and feedback. It’s important that a CEO and the rest of the employees are on the same page when discussing the business.

Thanks to Bryan Truong, GameCows!

#15- Be open to failure

Photo Credit: Austen Blass

The first iteration of Spiro was a free app that sat on top of Salesforce as a sales assistant. It took off quickly and we had about 15,000 active users when we began focusing on selling our first corporate account. We thought it would be a no brainer to start selling to a large company with hundreds of salespeople already using us, but they said no. We tried and tried, but could not sell a single corporate license. Not one. This realization inspired us to keep going, and in hindsight feels a little obvious. Instead of providing an app to fix a crappy product (CRM), chart a new path. We went back to the drawing board and started from scratch to create an approach, called proactive relationship management, which is the only sales platform that doesn’t need to be used. We now have over 200 corporate customers and continue to see rapid growth because a lot of people can resonate with the desire to eliminate CRM.

Thanks to Adam Honig, Spiro!

#16- Focus and organization

Photo Credit: David Pike

As a CEO, you will receive many competing priorities and you need to be focused to determine which ones need your attention the most. You need to be strong and an optimist. When things fail, you can't mope around and be negative. You need to emit positivity and persevere when things become tough.

Thanks to David Pike, New York Trolley Company!

#17- Open yet critical

Photo Credit: Ori Hofnung

Being open to receive feedback yet very critical about its relevance – a CEO is bombarded every day with people who compete for his or her attention on how to run the company from lawyers, accountants, employees, and customers. A CEO needs to communicate openness to receiving feedback yet before deciding to act on it, he or she should ask themselves is this person giving me advice in their domain of expertise? Would I like to have their knowledge about this specific domain? Is this advice relevant to my company's stage? Lastly, is their advice subjective or objective?

Thanks to Ori Hofnung, GiantLeap!

#18- Several traits

Photo Credit: Anne Baum

Ultimately, the job of a CEO is to get results and in the case of a publicly-traded organization, it’s to improve shareholder value. The manner by which leaders accomplish this is through their unique leadership style and leadership style is best delivered through open, honest, two-way conversation. Listening is critical to communication. A CEO must set the vision and culture while setting an excellent example. Successful CEOs empower their teams, and provide them with the training resources and, most importantly the trust necessary for them to accomplish the desired result. A great CEO is thinking about how to improve each person and system every day. Finally, and most importantly, a CEO operates with integrity. Integrity builds trust and trust is critical to success.

Thanks to Anne Baum,!

#19-Ability to take calculated risks

Photo Credit: Shawn Lockery

For me, the CEO must have the willingness to take calculated risks because you can get a great opportunity by taking risks. It boosts confidence and helps to grow as a business leader. During my entrepreneurial journey, I take several risks, and those risky decisions take me on a new path. I believe that success won’t be handed to you on a silver platter. As a CEO, I think that any individual that is reluctant to take risk is not generally suitable as a CEO post. A good CEO take risks but also conduct an in-depth evaluation of the probabilities associated with the loss and profit outcomes of the decision.

Thanks to Shawn Lockery, NemaMetrix Inc.!

#20- Ability to build and maintain relationships

Photo Credit: Jon Brodsky

This applies to relationships with employees, co-workers and clients. A sub-skill to maintain and build relationships is being an effective communicator. This means being clear in your requests, intentions and expectations but also taking feedback to ensure that you are clear. Remember that everyone takes in information differently so being adaptable doesn't hurt either. Your relationships are part of your personal branding which can extend into your business branding so you'll want to put in the effort to ensure they're great.

Thanks to Jon Brodsky, Finder!

#21- Being comfortable with uncertainty

Photo Credit: Dean Calhoun

The most important skills of a CEO is the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity on a day to day basis. In many cases, you will be lacking information when having to make a decision; whether it’s making a critical hiring decision, determining pricing strategies, or a go-to-market product decision. Often, this relies on more on the CEO trusting their “gut” feeling rather than hard data. This also requires that the CEO be comfortable with knowing that all decisions won’t work out, but learn from the mistakes and move on.

Thanks to Dean Calhoun, Affygility Solutions!

#22- Fast, intelligent decision making

Photo Credit: Jonathan Faccone

Analysis Paralysis is a problem that plagues many individuals. Unsure of making the right decision, some individuals can't seem to come to any decision. In this technology age that we live in, the only constant is that change occurs very rapidly. CEO's do not have the luxury of time to waste in the planning and ideology stage, because in this day in age timely execution and implementation is a must to running a successful operation. Technologies and advancements have changed the way that many industries have done business. Therefore in order to stay ahead of the competition, a CEO has to be able to make intelligent decisions very quickly.

Thanks to Jonathan Faccone, Halo Homebuyers LLC!

#23- Resilience

Photo Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

To be successful the CEO must be resilient because you get knocked around often so you have to be able to keep getting back up and trying again with enthusiasm and energy. A lot of people tell you no (investors, board, customers, candidates, etc.) so if you are easily daunted or do not have thick skin you will not last long in my experience. A good sense of humor goes a long way too but without resiliency you will not survive as CEO.

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#24- Listening

Photo Credit: Justine Lackey

It's absolutely critical that you be able to listen to your team, your clients and your vendors. This is so important in fact that we hold a weekly troubleshooting meeting with our team – during this half hour call (we try to keep it brief and targeted). This is our chance to listen and learn from one another. Any employee can bring up a challenge they are facing – whether it's wrestling with a piece of technology, dissecting a new tax law or navigating a particular client challenge. These weekly calls create an environment where all team members feel supported and also provide the opportunity for group learning.

Thanks to Justine Lackey, Good Cents Bookkeeping!

#25- Creating and communicating a vision

Photo Credit: Laura Spawn

A CEO should be a visionary. The ability to dream, plan and execute changes and improvements within your company is what sets business leaders apart—and the act of forging your own path can be extremely powerful and motivating. It’s also important to cultivate the skills needed to communicate this vision with the rest of your team so you can rally them behind your shared purpose. Learning to stay organized and manage your time, as well as identify priorities in line with the company purpose and
vision, is also essential for long-term success.

Thanks to Laura Spawn, Virtual Vocations!

#26- Saving and spending time wisely

Photo Credit: Sagar Kogekar

As a CEO you have to wear several hats. And you cannot keep the same hat on, for too long. Given that you equally distribute time between your business and home, (if you don’t, that might be the first essential skill you need), you have just about 8 hours. I do not spend more than 10 minutes on any meeting (internal or external). Beyond that, talks become repetitive. Investing one hour daily on reading your industry news inspires you to innovate. You might be good at what you do, but there's always someone out there who's better at it. Your job is to grow your business and keep your team happy. I spend 10 mins with my team members every 2 hours on sports, politics, news, events and relationships. It keeps us bonded. Setting hard stops when chatting with existing or prospective customers is really important.. Having a quick check daily with your admin team regarding staff complaints, book keeping, taxes, bills etc. will avoid financial surprises or shocks.. Make some time for casual exercise like walking or standing up, and having meals at the right intervals. For a CEO time is not money. It's gold.

Thanks to Sagar Kogekar, Webwingz Pty Ltd!

#27- Negotiation

Photo Credit: Avinash Chandra

One of the biggest skills that CEO will need is good negotiation skills. Not only will she be required to negotiate with other companies as the head of her company, she will also need to negotiate in her own organization with her employees, suppliers, partners and others. One of the most important areas where this skill will come in use is in case of conflict resolution- both externally and internally. The mark of a true leader is to make sure that all factions get along; and differences are bound to arise in any journey when more than one people are involved.

Thanks to Avinash Chandra, BrandLoom!

#28-Abundance mindset

Photo Credit: Tony Julianelle

One characteristic that contributes to a CEO’s success is an abundance mindset; in fact, it is essential to developing a healthy, vibrant and productive culture with team members empowered to do their best work. In contrast, a scarcity mindset leads to unhealthy behaviors, such as comparison and competition, and pits team members against each other—if you lose, then I win—the antithesis of a win-win culture. Leaders can develop and sustain a culture of abundance by celebrating successes, sharing vs. hoarding information, rewarding and supporting, fostering collaboration, choosing to see opportunity, and reminding the team there is more than enough. Innovation thrives in a culture of abundance, whereas scarcity thinking leads to transactional behaviors that make the organization dull and uninspired. While an abundance mindset can be learned, it is quite challenging for some yet relatively easy for others born with a natural tendency toward a positive, optimistic outlook. Nature and nurture aside, CEOs can cultivate an abundance mindset by developing a stronger sense of self-awareness and self-worth, which inevitably leads to a greater sense of confidence in one's leadership abilities.

Thanks to  Tony Julianelle, Atlas Real Estate!

What essential skills do you need to be a CEO? Tell us 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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