25 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- Curious mindset

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

A CEO should want to ask questions and challenge the existing status quo. This paves the way to share and spread innovative new ideas, ultimately allowing the company to grow and succeed in and out of its general market. It also allows CEOs to be perceived as true thought leaders that have a reputation for strategically implementing change and maintaining a forward-thinking approach to business

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation!

#2- Communication

Photo Credit: Carolina Aponte

As a CEO you must be able to communicate effectively with employees, customers and general public in a timely and relevant manner.  To be a successful CEO, you must master the art of communication!

Thanks to Carolina Aponte, Caja Holdings LLC!

#3- Investigates, lays a plan, and implements

Photo Credit: Lindsey Wander

A good CEO knows she doesn't know everything, but is open and willing to learn. Sometimes the best business advice comes from people not even in your field, so don't count people out. Acquiring the advice is one thing, but acting on it is another. A successful CEO investigates, lays a plan, and implements action. Be prudent but also intuitive and venturesome. The best CEOs are also lifelong learners. They are always questioning, exploring, and learning. They are passionate about acquiring knowledge and growing as a person.

Thanks to Lindsey Wander, WorldWise Tutoring LLC!

#4- Three Skills

Photo Credit: Evan Wray

Hire A+ players, be curious and also have a vision or your business. Be curious about customer needs, employees/team needs and also the industry and changing landscape Set the vision, Being able to articulate a clear vision to your team and Hire A+ players and then let them do what they already are great at.

Thanks to Evan Wray, Mavely!

#5- Hold feelings under balance

Photo Credit: Matt Scott

This doesn't really, however, mean that a CEO will be strict in conduct and refuse to praise achievements or call out mistakes. Rather, the strength of emotion needs to be balanced in such a way that the fellow coworkers and superiors grasp the emotion's real sense. Optimally, a CEO should not have to show disproportionate amounts of frustration on minor losses or get extremely happy on tiny wins. Rather, they should be able to learn how to respect workers and drive them in the right path helping the team to accomplish the organization's corporate objective.

Thank to Matt Scott, Termite Survey!

#6- Include everyone in the decision-making phase

Photo credit: Lesley Reynolds

CEO demonstrating their insight into the decision-making phase is deemed extremely important to fellow employees and subordinates. The ultimate decision will only be made after a complete financial and non-financial decision review and evaluation of whether the decision will help the team to accomplish the company's overall goal. The CEO must still remain an impartial decision-maker, though, and will be willing to make these choices during times of uncertainty where time limitations impede the opportunity to include others in the decision-making.

Thanks to Lesley Reynolds, Harley Street Skin Clinic!

#7- Empathy

Photo credit: John Timmerman

Empathy for your employees, empathy for your clients and customers, and empathy for your vendors and partners. This allows you to move, change yourself and your organization to fit the needs of the most important people to your business and enables you to go around, over, or through roadblocks by taking the temperature of the people that would be most affected.

Thanks to John Timmerman, NoBull Company!

#8- Prioritization

Photo credit: Shilpi Gupta

As the CEO of an early-stage startup, I constantly feel the urge to try out 100 different things to drive more traction for my business. However, out of those 100 things, I probably really need 20 of them done. But in reality, I actually have just enough time to do 5 of them. It has been extremely crucial for me to constantly prioritize work on-the-run and identify the top 5 things I need to work on each day.

Thanks to Shilpi Gupta, Edizeven!

#9- Striving to learn

Photo credit: Chris Riley

Striving to learn more is one of the most important traits that make a CEO both resilient and successful. The second you think you know everything about your business or industry, you are losing to your competition who is hungry and is coming for you. Growth hacks never last. They are figured out now faster than ever before. Stay on top of the latest trends for your industry, and make it a priority to teach yourself new skills.

Thanks to Chris Riley, USA Rx!

#10- Ability to deal with ambiguity

Photo credit: Brandon Chopp

The ability to deal with ambiguity and to synthesize an educated decision is an absolute must. There is no playbook for success when starting your own company and therefore you are often in a position where you have limited information and you need to make a decision. You can spend time gathering more intel, punt on the decision, or make a decision with the information you have.

Thanks to Brandon Chopp,iHeartRaves!

#11 -Resilience

Photo credit: Stephanie Lin

Every CEO has to be resilient in managing a business. CEOs have to adopt a resilient attitude and have the courage to overcome obstacles. Even in the worst situations, CEOs still have to see the positive side of ill-fortune and try every possible way to transform back luck into good.

Thanks to Stephanie Lin

#12- Innovative

Photo credit: Lewis Keegan

Being innovative means that someone is willing to accept change and adapt to it. Being a CEO means that you should be able to guide your company through the changing process and that you shouldn't remain stagnant or remain stuck in your comfort zone because growth starts when we leave our comfort zones

Thanks to Lewis Keegan, SkillScouter!

#13-Being adaptable

Photo Credit: Michael Dadashi

Being adaptable is the most important skill for a CEO as the key to success for any organization is to be able to evolve on a continuous basis. The business environment keeps on changing due to globalization, technological advancement, and many other reasons. There can be any unforeseen situation for which organizations are not prepared for, for instance this pandemic. Only a CEO who thinks outside the box can adapt quickly to these rapid changes and come up with the best business model under any circumstances.

Thanks to Michael Dadashi, Infinite Recovery!

#14- The willingness to take calculated risks

Photo Credit: Jack Wang

One important skill that a CEO needs to have is the willingness to take calculated risks. Risks are a part of doing business, no matter what industry you’re in. And without these risks, there will be no rewards to reap. However, the keyword here is calculated. Before taking a plunge on anything, make sure you have as much bases covered as you can, and not throw caution to the wind.

Thanks to Jack Wang, Amazing Beauty Hair!

#15- Three skills

Photo Credit: Kamil Drazkiewicz

While I believe there is no blueprint for becoming an outstanding CEO, they can have various traits and skillsets. I also believe there are 3 skills that set successful CEOs apart from the unsuccessful ones. 1) Decisiveness – while you don’t have to be right every time, you must be able to decide fast – faster and earlier than your competition. 2) Ability to bring others on board – the CEO’s role is to lead and to lead effectively, they must be able to get buy-in from company stakeholders. 3) Adaptability – we live in a world of change, businesses who don’t adapt fast, fail. CEOs as company leaders must not only drive change but also adapt to it quickly.

Thanks to Kamil Drazkiewicz, LiveSession!

#16- Ability to think outside the box

Photo Credit: Dennis Bell

Being a CEO takes a lot of hard work. Looking at what I have now made me realized that without this skill, I wouldn't be able to achieve success. One of the essential skills a CEO should have is the ability to think outside the box. It's important because you're considering different methods and solutions to reach your desired goal. You need to be open-minded to allow you to have a greater perspective of the situation. It can also make you receptive to a lot of ideas that can help your business be successful.

Thanks to Dennis Bell, Byblos Coffee!

#17-Deep listening

Photo Credit: Bob Gilkes

For me, success as a CEO comes from good habits, and the one that’s given me the best return is deep listening. That isn’t the same as just hearing someone’s words: it’s going beyond the words they are speaking, and instead listening to the intent. “For example, a member of the team here at Epro could tell me that they are getting frustrated working from home. Normal listening focuses on the frustration, and it’s tempting to just placate that team member. Deep listening means listening beyond the words and asking open questions to unravel that frustration. Is it the technology? The isolation? Getting distracted? Lack of separation between personal and professional lives? This deep listening technique improves communication, unearths problems quicker, and empowers the team to consider their own solutions. It’s a game-changer.

Thanks to Bob Gilkes, Epro!

#18- Several skills

Photo Credit: Mitali Saxena

Being a CEO is not the easiest task in the world because you are not just responsible for yourself and your own work – you are responsible for everyone in the company and the progress of the company itself. On top of all the usual challenges of the job, I am also the CEO of a startup which does add another level of intensity to the position because you have to wear an extra dozen hats a day and be extremely flexible in your routine. That all being said, I cannot imagine doing anything other than what I am doing right now, exactly as I am doing it (sans our current pandemic state). To be a CEO, you need to have a strong drive, a deep belief in the company, purposeful determination, a team behind you that is just as invested as you are (especially if you're a smaller company), rolling flexibility to go with the flow sometimes, and a focus on the heart of what you do, beyond just a goal of growing profits.

Thanks to Mitali Saxena, FASHOM!

#19- Ability to quickly adjust and make decisions fast

Photo Credit: Ashwin Sokke

With the market and its industries changing daily at such extreme speeds it is vital to constantly calculate the risks, be ready to pivot at any point and be prepared to use the knowledge collected from past experiences to be a disruptor and trendsetter in your industry. Being able to connect with other industry leaders and to cultivate strong, lasting relationships with individuals is also imperative to a CEO's success. Realizing the importance of communication, collaboration, and innovation will push you to new levels as a leader.

Thanks to Ashwin Sokke, WOW Skin Science!

#20- Positivity and having a vision

Photo Credit: Dr. Laura Louis

Be a visionary. It's impossible to run a successful business without an end goal in mind. It is absolutely crucial to be able to see past your current circumstances to picture your end goal and work towards it. Ask yourself what it is that you're trying to achieve. – Be positive. If you are positive, you'll lead your team better. Your positivity will motivate them. A positive mindset also cultivates a winning mindset, and it helps you overcome problems you face.

Thanks to Dr. Laura Louis, Atlanta Couple Therapy!

#21- A mindset of fearlessness

Photo Credit: Josh Welch

There have been several failures in the midst of my successes and had I been afraid to implement new ideas or let the fear of failure hold me back, I wouldn't be where I am today. But to get through the failure on the path to success also involves persistence. Very rarely do I get things right the first time. I go in with the understanding that something might not work, but know that after the 100th try, I will eventually get it. Everyone knows that Edison failed 1000 times before getting the light bulb right. Lastly, a successful CEO chooses his friends, colleagues, and employees wisely. People you let into your life both personal and professionally, make a dramatic impact on achieving your goals. If you have the right people on your team with the same type of drive, hustle, and positivity you will be unstoppable. But if you let complacent and negative people in, not only will it limit your potential, but slowly erode at that same spark of hustle, drive, and creativity that started you on your path to being a CEO in the first place.

Thanks to Josh Welch, Three Pillars Capital Group!

#22- People person who says no and keeps time

Photo Credit: Nicole Garcia

Whether a CEO of a major corporation or the sole owner of your small business, the same skill set applies to each end of the spectrum. I love being my boss and calling all the shots in my career. And throughout the years, there are three skills that I learned to hone. One is to be good with your communication skills or be a people person. When you manage your career, that means events, conventions, appearances, and dealing with your team on a daily basis. Being a people person is a must to network your company and establish a good rapport with everyone you interact with. The other is knowing how to set your limitations. Being a people pleaser, I hate saying NO. However, I learned early in my career as a team leader that I had to learn to get used to it. Saying NO has helped keep me on track, weed out unsavory people, and helped me gain a backbone. Lastly, be good at managing your time. Knowing how to spend each minute of the workday can mean the difference between hitting a deadline and not.

Thanks to Nicole Garcia, Most Craft!

#23- Understanding your team

Photo Credit: Daniel Ribacoff

If you are able to know your team's strengths and weaknesses like the back of your hand, your job and responsibilities become that much easier. As the CEO of a Private Investigation company, it is my responsibility to assign certain agents to different cases. In order to do that, I have to know which one of them can blend in wherever I assign them to investigate, who's had experience with a similar investigation, and what strengths of theirs can play into our favor. By spending time with my team both in and out of the office, I am able to learn so much about each of them and what qualities or traits make them unique and valuable team members.

Thanks to Daniel Ribacoff, International Investigative Group, Ltd.!

#24- Balance is key

Photo Credit: Andrew Glantz

You must be able to balance smart risk-taking with meticulous growth strategies, reliance on quantitative analysis with qualitative feedback, and time spent on yourself and your personal life versus the business. You want to grow, but in a way that is measurable and repeatable. You want to rely on data points, but also find patterns in what customers are saying that may explain the data. And you want to push yourself to scale your business, while also not burning out.

Thanks to Andrew Glantz, GiftAMeal!

#25-  Unreasonable grit and determination

Photo Credit: Steven Cox

On this journey, there are a tremendous number of obstacles – many of which can wreck a company. Good-meaning people will unknowingly suck the energy right out of the dream. It’s up to the entrepreneur to understand from the beginning that the path will be difficult with a probability of mediocre success or downright failure. The entrepreneur has to go through these struggles, get knocked down, keep standing up, and taking the next step. It’s completely unreasonable – and that’s exactly what it takes. Most successful entrepreneurs I know have an incredible internal desire to make a difference. They are able to see problems and a better way to solve them. They are able to understand if it’s a big enough problem that, if they spend their time and effort solving it, it will make a difference to the world. I find that most of us are “gimme the ball” type of people. What that means is that if your team is down in a basketball game with 3 seconds left on the clock. You’re the person that wants the ball. You believe you can score.

Thanks to Steven Cox, TakeLessons!

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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