One of the biggest concerns I have when looking at businesses, particularly businesses doing seven figures and above, is that the vast majority of them are operating without a CEO.
Now, it’s not that there isn’t somebody who calls themselves the “CEO” – because there always is.
It’s just that the person that calls themselves the “CEO” is so busy doing everything. They’re so deeply entrenched in the day-to-day operations that there is nobody actually architecting the future of the business.
There’s nobody overseeing the development of the organisation, the team, and the infrastructure that sits within it, because everybody’s busy living in ‘doing’ mode.
I get it: at the beginning, when you’re in startup stage this is almost inevitable, but the issue is too many CEOs remain in this ‘doing’ mentality, even when they’ve reached a point that they have the resources to deploy against employing people.
It’s easy to fall in the trap of being the ‘doer’ or ‘technician’, particularly if this is how you have always operated, but if this sounds like you, you’re not operating as effectively as you could be.
So the question is, what does it take to be a great CEO that can step out of the day-to-day operations of your business and focus on being the leader of your company?
Here I’ve put together a list of 7 traits that separate a good CEO from a great CEO.
Trait 1: Deep understanding of market trends
The best CEOs have a deep understanding of where their market is going and what is happening in the space. Not just in the present moment but in the future. Have a think for yourself: what’s your market going to look like in three, five, seven and ten years from now? What will the competitive landscape look like?
The larger your business, the further your foresight needs to reach.
Trait Two: A deep empathy for your consumer.
I often talk about building structure within a business so that you can elevate yourself as a CEO to step out of the day-to-day operations – but this does NOT mean you should build yourself an ivory tower and totally disconnect from the people and processes in your business.
No matter how big your business grows you need to stay deeply connected to your consumer. Look beyond the standard demographics, and never stop asking yourself: what’s going on in their heart? What problems are they facing? How can you better serve them?
The businesses that maintain a deep, unrelenting commitment to making their consumers lives better are the ones that win.
Trait 3: Understand world’s best practice
You wouldn’t find an eight-year-old child that wanted to be a basketball player growing up who didn’t know the name Michael Jordan, right?
The same principle applies to business.
It’s really important that you know who the “Michael Jordans” are in your industry – whether they’re individuals or companies.
Who is the best in the world? Who does marketing the best in your industry? Who’s doing culture well? Who’s killing sales?
Once you know this you have the power to reverse engineer and emulate (not just copy) the best aspects of these business and make them your own.
Trait 4: Connecting the dots from point 1 to 3
The best CEOs are able to connect the dots between where the market is going, who their consumer is at a deep level and world’s best practice. Once you have an understanding of this dimension you can use it to define what your high-level product strategy looks likes.
Trait 5: Cultural leadership
As CEO you need to be a custodian and the reiterator of the vision, where the organisation is going and why it’s so important.
Every time you step closer towards fulfilling our vision, remind your people of this. Your vision isn’t a nice fantasy or a mirage out there of something that doesn’t exist, it’s a real thing that you and your team are working towards achieving every single day.
Trait 6: Focus on the big problems and the big deals
As a CEO if you’re too deeply ingrained in all of the details you won’t have time to focus on the big problems and the big deals.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting too caught up in office management or admin. Instead, focus on the big dominoes that will have the largest impact on your business.
There might be culture things you need to fix, high level product issues or challenges in certain departments that need your attention. Focus on solving these and the small stuff generally follows.
Trait 7: Building and clarifying the vision and strategy
The seventh trait of all great CEOs is building and clarifying the vision of the company and the overarching strategy.
When we talk vision, we’re talking long term, whatever that might mean for you. A vision for me is usually about 20 to 30 years in any particular company. For you, the company that you’re building might be a five-year play. There’s no right of wrong answer here.
Once you are clear on your vision, the next crucial step is defining the path to get there – what is your high-level business strategy? What projects do your team need to undertake over the next 12 months? What’s your operational plan? What are the key milestones each function of the business need to achieve?
In the absence of this, everybody is likely to go off in their own directions. Whereas creating a clear link between your vision and your strategy will set your team, yourself and ultimately your business up for greater levels of success.
I go into each of these traits in a deeper level in this video, so if you’re looking to level-up as a CEO give it a watch. Or if you’re on the go, check out the podcast version here.