Read enough articles about top-of-their-game CEOs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, and you start to see a few common threads. It makes you wonder: Do certain personality traits make some CEOs more successful than others?
Yes, but not the ones you might think. In his work advising CEOs, Dean Stamoulis has noticed certain stereotypes prevail. While many believe these leaders must be extroverted, self-promoting and risk taking to succeed, Stamoulis disagrees. So he decided to research the truth.
In a piece for Harvard Business Review, the executive coach digs into real data to reveal the true personality traits shared by successful CEOs. Stamoulis and his team at Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed the profiles of 200 CEOs around the world. They created in-depth personality profiles for each that analyzed everything from leadership, communication and decision making styles to interpersonal skills, personality and emotional factors.
While the data revealed that successful CEOs had greater comfort with taking risks, extroversion was not a key quality. Neither was the annoying tendency to self promote. Instead, these are the three key personality traits the research revealed most prevalent among the top executives in the group.
Sense of purpose and mission
Successful CEOs are insanely passionate and driven by their companies. Taking action is simply part of their DNA. They move swiftly and decisively. You'll never find them resting on their laurels because they don't really know how.
HBR pointed out this personality trait could manifest itself as impatience and intensity, which may not always come off as a good thing. But you can always expect a strong CEO to get things done.
Ability to zero in on core issues
CEOs are surrounded by layer after layer of information and complexity -- the competitive landscape of the industry, the challenges facing their own organization, and the complexities of a given problem to name a few.
With a bewildering and often messy data set of information available, it's natural an average CEO might feel lost when faced with a major decision. Not a problem for a successful CEO. She has a penchant for tuning out the noise and drilling straight to the heart of the matter. What information is most critical? Whose input is truly valuable? What's top priority in a long list of competing priorities? With the big picture in mind, she can strip the minutiae from monumental.
Acceptance of their weaknesses
Though know-it-all leaders might try to convince you otherwise, no single person can know all the things. Why those guys are puffed up on their own egos, the successful CEO is light-years ahead by learning what they don't know.
The best-in-class CEOs surround themselves with experts who understand topics they don't. They are voracious readers, active learners and sponges for new information. They subscribe to the "may the best idea win" way of doing things, not the "mine always win" strategy. Modesty, not narcissism prevails.
Read more about traits of essential CEOs in the Harvard Business Review.