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Characteristics of successful CEOs

As a CEO of Zero $ company right now (a start-up) as most of “so” called social friends tried ridiculing about my situation at an event yesterday -J   I wanted to convert their verbal jibes into positive energy – so I woke up and decided “to research and share” what truly makes a successful CEO. Sharing the learnings was as important to me as researching about it. So here is my small contribution to those aspiring CEOs.

With a morning coffee on my desk – I started making some mental notes to re-define the characteristics of a CEO success story.

That is where I dusted off the “Good to Great” by Jim Collins from my Library Shelf, skimmed “The Outliers – The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell (Thanks Bahadar Ali Khan for recommending that) and ran into a review by HBR on “The Outsiders” by William Thorndike Jr. duly acknowledged by Warren Buffet.

Ask most people what describes an effective CEO, and you’ll get a pretty consistent answer–“a seasoned manager with deep industry expertise.”

Magnify that through today’s celebrity-saturated lens, and someone like former GE head Jack Welch becomes the poster child for CEO success: seasoned, but also charismatic, cutting-edge, and Wall-Street savvy.

I thought to myself – this doesn’t make sense – Is this the truly the blueprint or characteristics we should be following as an aspiring CEO?

Not necessarily. The performance of Welch and other high-profile CEOs doesn’t come close to the achievements of the CEOs profiled in “The Outsiders or Good to Great”.

Meet eight iconoclastic leaders who helmed firms where returns on average outperformed the S&P 500 by over 20 times.

You may not know some of their names (Henry Singleton, Bill Anders, Tom Murphy) –but you will recognize many of their companies (General Cinema, Ralston Purina, The Washington Post Company, Berkshire Hathaway).

In this book, you’ll learn the consistent and rational traits that helped these select leaders achieve that exceptional performance.

Personal Characteristics

  • Humble, unassuming, and often frugal, these “outsiders” shunned Wall Street and the press and shied away from hot management trends and too much personal exposure.

Financials, Entrepreneurship, Marketing & Team Building Characteristics

Instead, they honed specific (and less sexy) characteristics on running the business including:

(2) laser-sharp focus on per share value rather than sales or earnings

(3) an exceptional talent to build teams, motivate them, align towards common goals and for allocating capital and human resources,

(4) Focus on cash flow, not earnings, determines a company’s long-term value,

(5) Giving employees and managers autonomy to practice entrepreneurial spirit and not just stating as a company mission,

(6) Understanding the significance of product / service marketing, customer service and doing in-depth target market research during product development where required instead of spending on personal or their fat pay checks

Drawing on extensive research, Will Thorndike tells many of these leaders’ stories for the first time–and extracts lessons for those of you hoping to lead your company to exceptional returns today.

Beyond their control factor

(7) The last and most important factor of lady luck which was beyond their control –where were they born, family, education, background, experiences and were they there at the right time and made the right choices.

All in all, the 7 characteristics gave me good mental notes on how to manage the upcoming challenges with a smile. I thought I would share them with you all and especially those aspiring to be entrepreneurs.



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Written by Nauman Jaffar (CEO, MarkiTech) on May 3rd  2015