11th July 2019

The Seven Attributes of The CEO Part 2

The Seven Attributes of The CEO


I have been very lucky in my working life. I have had the pleasure of working with some truly excellent leaders and also of working with some pretty poor leaders. I would literally walk through a wall for the great leaders and even though I am embarrassed to admit it, there were times I wouldn’t pick up the phone for the poor ones.

What is the difference? I have often quoted the mantra that a few of us had a few years ago; ‘the boss has got us sprinting marathons again!’ A really good leader has the ability to cause people to perform at a level that they wouldn’t perform to on their own.

Effective Leaders

Writing in Rolling Stone magazine David Foster Wallis said “Effective Leaders are individuals who help us overcome our own selfishness, weakness and fears, and get us to do harder, better more important work than we would do on our own.”

In short, a great CEO has the ability to inspire. She has the ability to cause people to perform at a higher level both individually and collectively. Inspire means ‘to breathe in to’ and a great CEO literally breathes the desire and confidence to perform at a higher level into all of their people. The end result of which is higher discretionary effort, greater performance and, as a result, more of a feel good effect.


There is something about a great CEO that causes us to want to perform better; to want to do a better job; to want to work harder and more effectively. The word ‘want’ is significant here. We can get some short term gains by forcing or threatening people but long term sustainable results come when people want to do more, and want to perform better. Internal motivation will trump external motivation every day of the week and it is inspiration that engenders internal motivation.

When I think about the excellent CEO’s I have come across, they have all been very different in their behaviours and their approach and even in their relationship to me but the one common thing has been the outcomes. They all caused me to work harder, smarter and at a higher level than I would have done without them. They expected more of me, they demanded more of me and because they were great leaders they got more out of me and, as a consequence I got more out of myself and felt good about it.

Leaders who have the ability to inspire all of their people to perform at a higher level over a long enough period of time will be the great CEO’s we should all aspire to be.