7 Things Great CEOs Do

What sets truly great CEOs apart? A collection of founders, CEOs, and VCs describe seven things that the best strive to do day in and day out.

Let’s face it — not all CEOs are created equally.

Some are true visionaries, while others boast leadership qualities that aren’t easily mimicked. Steve Jobs, for instance, had an uncanny knack for understanding which innovations and products would resonate with future consumer trends, while Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison is often lauded as the ultimate engineer of great teams — a product of his unique ability to identify talent and put people in the best position to succeed.

The good news, however, is that becoming a great CEO isn’t all about possessing a specific set of inherent, God-given traits. In fact, as Stephen H. Baum illustrated in his book, “What Made Jack Welch Jack Welch: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders,” becoming a great CEO has much more to do with confidence and character, and a commitment to learning from your (and others) successes and failures.

The best CEOs…

1) Build and Empower Great Teams and Communities

“In the end, success comes largely from the work and contribution of others around you, not yourself. That includes employees, investors, customers, users, etc. If you can effectively recruit, pitch, sell, and evangelize to these groups then you’re in good shape.” Tweet this quote.

Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora @TimWestergren

2) Know How to Delegate

“If we’re off on a really bad tangent, I’ll hand a project back to the team. Even though there is a piece of me that thinks, ‘If I spend another five hours on this I’m sure I could make a difference.’ I’m always looking for the right person to solve a problem. I only have so much time.” Tweet this quote.

 — Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard @MegWhitman

3) Are Transparent

“With total transparency, I’ve found that everyone in the organization — not just team leaders or executives — feels accountable for the company’s performance… When you’re honest with employees, they pay you back with trust and buy-in.” Tweet this quote.

Rick Faulk, CEO of Intronis @RickFaulk

4) Empathize

“For us, empathy is about putting ourselves into the minds of others and feeling their pain, their happiness, their challenges, and their desires. In fact, empathy is at the root of every other core value we have.” Tweet this quote.

— Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of Moz @randfish

5) Are Resillient

“AirBnB took 1,000 days for its business to start working. Imagine if they gave up on day 999? The best CEOs find a way to dig in and keep going even when it seems everything is going against them.” Tweet this quote.

Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer at Rackspace @Scobleizer

6) Will Take One for the Team

“A startup CEO’s job is to absorb stress so the team doesn’t have to.” Tweet this quote.

Mark Suster, Upfront Ventures @msuster

7) Have a Powerful Answer for the Question, “Why?”

“For your company to become a leader, you must lead by inspiring your followers with a purpose, an idea, a belief in something that transcends the ordinary. Something that ignites the emotions and passion within each one of your employees and customers. Something that drives them to take action that they would not have taken otherwise.” Tweet this quote.

— Firas Raouf, OpenView Venture Partners @fraouf

*BONUS: Conduct Fewer and Shorter Meetings

“Meetings are a company’s most expensive endeavors… Make sure your meetings are as short as possible, as actionable as possible, and as interesting as possible. Don’t hold a meeting when an email or 5-minute recorded message will suffice.” Tweet this quote.

 — Matt Blumberg, Founder and CEO at Return Path @mattblumberg

What other qualities make great CEOs?

Images by: Alex Proimos,  Theodore C.

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