What Sets Successful CEOs Apart From the Pack

Harvard Business Review reveals four traits that make the perfect chief executive.

June 6, 2017 3:23 pm
What Makes CEOs So Successful
(Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images)

There are some people who have no business being CEOs. And others who thrive despite being the quietest ones in the board room.

Well, now there’s a scientific study to explain why.

The Harvard Business Review recently published the results of a 10-year study it conducted with the University of Chicago and other top institutions called the CEO Genome Project, which set out to identify the building blocks of high-performing CEOs—0r those that meet or exceed the expectations of the role.

Of the more than 17,000 C-suite execs that were assessed, 2,000 were CEOs—and data like work history and business results were at play.

Among the most surprising facts gleaned from the study were that it pays to be an introvert, as that personality profile passes muster better with investors and boards. And quality of education really has no bearing on their standing; just seven percent of the CEOs in the study had an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League institution.

However, the study did tease out four specific behaviors that were found to make the most great CEOs great. These include the ability to: (1) “make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction”; (2) “deftly engage stakeholders”; (3) proactively adapt to change; and (4) “reliably produce results.”

Of course, the researchers are quick to point out that these four traits aren’t necessary for every great CEO—and that each industry will require some of the traits more than others.

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