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Five Defining Characteristics of Great CEOs

1. Personal insight. Great CEOs are great leaders. They know
themselves and what they stand for. They have been called on
all their lives as problem solvers because others know them
to be fair and impartial. People respect their opinions and
look to them for guidance. Great CEOs are mature as
people. They can suffer disappointment more gracefully than
others and give others credit for their achievements. They
don't come in the office door yelling for something they
need. They aren't as concerned about titles or power
structures as they are about the welfare of those who work
at the company. They are trustworthy because they've always
been honest with people and have earned that trust. They
care about families, and they know that people are more
important than dollars and express it in their actions every
day. Finally, great CEOs seek out feedback. They want to
know how others see them so that they can understand
themselves better and continue to grow as people. They also
want feedback about the company from an employee
perspective, and they use surveys as a starting point for
creating a dialogue to make things better.

2. Resourcefulness. Great CEOs seem to have boundless
energy. They come to work with the greatest enthusiasm. Even
when they don't feel like it, they find ways to reenergize
themselves and come in ready to go. They take good care of
themselves physically and emotionally so that they can be
there for the employees and the needs of the company. They
give much more than they take every day. They don't give
up. If the wall is too high, they back down and find another
way around. They don't blame, but they do look for solutions
to problems so that those problems are less likely to happen
again.

3. Courage. The CEO has one of the world's toughest jobs. No
matter how tough it was to start the company, it's even
harder to keep it going and growing. A CEO must decide what
he or she stands for and do what is right, all the time.
It takes courage to fire the salesperson responsible for
the company's biggest, most lucrative account when that same
salesperson drives a company car drunk and causes an
accident. There will be many times when CEOs will want to
smooth over something that requires decisive action because
of the potential consequences or because they just can't
take on one more challenge at the moment. However, CEOs who
exercise poor moral judgment will lose their personal
integrity with all of their employees watching.

4. Willingness to look at risk. A great CEO isn't afraid to
look at the downside and answer the hard questions he or she
hopes will never become a reality. The CEO needs a backup
plan-one that is designed by looking at the company's
worst-case scenarios. This plan addresses questions such as:
What if your industry experiences a slump? What if new
governmental regulations affect your business? What if you
lose the client that accounts for 50 percent of your sales?
Preparing yourself and your company for these eventualities
may be the difference between a tough year or two and
bankruptcy. If you are in business for 20 years, some of
your worst-case scenarios will probably happen. The key is
to be ready and able to take immediate action to reduce the
loss.

5. Foresight. It seems some CEOs have an uncanny ability to
predict the future. They may have unusual insights into
their particular markets, and luck may play a part as well.
In addition, they are prepared to create their own luck by
cultivating an ability to see opportunities for their
company and to make the deals that convert those
opportunities into realities. Some things that may seem like
amazing foresight are actually the result of the hard work
and discipline it takes to constantly look forward to build
a successful company. Great CEOs must also constantly
develop new products to build and retain a customer base.
Foresight is also the ability to hire and retain the right
people, looking ahead toward the growth of the company.
Finally, over time, each company must develop a steady
source of business during both good economic times and bad,
because there are sure to be bad economic times during the
life of a business.

Jan B. King is the former President & CEO of Merritt
Publishing, a top 50 woman-owned and run business in Los
Angeles and the author of Business Plans to Game Plans: A
Practical System for Turning Strategies into Action (John
Wiley & Sons, 2004). She has helped hundreds of businesses
with her book and her ebooks, The Do-It-Yourself Business
Plan Workbook, and The Do-It-Yourself Game Plan Workbook.
See www.janbking.com for more information.




 
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