In addition to the Chief Executive Officers using the information presented here, Boards of Directors are also encouraged to apply the following content as the basis for either CEO evaluation or for CEO selection; a task that Boards are finding themselves having to make more frequently. Executive churn and subsequent CEO succession planning, is now a major issue within many organizations. Retaining an effective CEO is very likely the Boards single most important task in today’s challenging and changing business environment.

In a nutshell, what great Chief Executive Officers do, is focus on leadership basics. But what are the basics? Nine important points are presented, which provide the framework necessary when effectively leading an organization on the road to both sustainability and growth. Also described are other attributes, which great CEO’s would agree are important in their ability to execute organizational strategy and attain personal and professional success.

With this in mind, I believe the following observations are appropriate. I have been a student, researcher, practitioner and coach in leadership development for over four decades. That length of time has provided me the opportunity to discover that much of what has been written about leadership has not really changed over the years. Minus the fluff or the fads, most of what has been documented about leadership sort of blends together after a while, and few new revelations have been made.

In fact, many of the descriptions about leadership have become rather utopian. Those descriptions are what many “non leaders,” – those who study and teach leadership, but have never actually been tasked to lead others – have considered as being important.

Based on my own experience and many discussions with executives who truly made a difference, the mark of a solid “CEO leader” boils down to some very basic leadership attributes. And no, they are not being a great visionary, a charismatic, or an innovative individual. Rather, the solid leaders will most often agree they routinely focus on, and accomplish, time honored basic and core actions for the organizations they lead. This holds true both for profit, as well as non-profit organizations.

Great leaders create and influence the culture of the organization so the people are inspired and engaged. They set the mood and manage the emotions. They realize that a genuine congratulation on a job well done can motivate an individual and organization, like nothing else. A great CEO understands the mood they set, may well be one of the most potent contributions they make as a leader. They know they must model the way. CEO’s understand that the people they lead turn the organizations strategy into reality. Great leaders realize “it’s all about people…theirs and yours.”
Interestingly, virtually every successful executive I’ve met are visual people. They don’t need stacks of detailed information to lead, but choose to work off of bullet points, graphs, charts and metrics, which state those things that they and the people in the organization should be clear on. They understand that it is very important for key individuals in the organization to know where they are, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. They paint a clear picture.

The following “basic bullet points” outline nine items the CEO, as “the leader,” must do in any size organization:

1. Set the direction and strategy of the organization
2. Clearly communicate the present and future picture to all stakeholders
3. Model a positive “mood and tone” for all to follow
4. Insure that the appropriate measurements of success are in place
5. Recruit, hire and retain the best talent and then delegate effectively
6. Insist on solid business execution at all levels within the organization
7. Make sure there is money in the bank to support both sustainability and growth
8. No matter what, as a leader, do whatever it takes to ensure all of the above is accomplished even when unexpected events occur
9. Delegate all “management actions” to others

More often than not, “action beats brilliance” when it comes to accomplishing the above statements. Great leaders understand there is a time for discussion, but then there is a time to act. When faced with a possible setback or failure, they will find a way to adjust and keep the organization moving forward. Doing whatever it takes in the face of adversity is the mark of a great leader and the hallmark of a great organization.

When it comes right down to it, solid CEO’s have developed the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason to accomplish the right objectives for the greater good of the organization and those they serve. As easy as this may sound, it is a path, which often separates the leader from the follower. The right decision can often fly in the face of the popular assumptions of others.

Great CEO’s are very self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses, seek feedback, ask good questions, listen well, reflect, and are aware of their ability to influence. They also truly understand that “what they do or don’t do” has a direct impact on the success of the organization they lead. One additional point, great leaders are adept at the not so easy task of balancing the disparate needs and wellbeing of the investors, employees and the customer.

Yes, true leadership at the top can be both difficult and lonely, but also very rewarding for the leader; because great leaders take pride in the fact they lead individuals and organizations to a better place they would have never experienced, without their basic leadership skills. Bottom line… Great CEO’s focus on basic and time-honored leadership principles.

Post script: In addition to the above brief comments and basic checklist, Great CEO leaders I have met, do more than simply apply sound leadership skills. They bring their own special innate insight, abilities, skills and talents to bear. This helps make “their own unique leadership style” function well in their respective organizations. They experiment and develop a special ability to operate at a level of leadership, which few people ever attain. They are very much on a mission, sometimes bordering on “a calling,” constantly drawn and driven to effectively lead others and their organization to greater success. They constantly give nothing but their best effort and accept full responsibility for their leadership actions.

The title of Chief Executive Officer or CEO is a very important position for which few qualify and more are needed.

Author's Bio: 

Coach and author Roger M. Ingbretsen is a certified executive coach and organizational developer, He provides organizational and career guidance to professionals, managers, supervisors and all individuals looking for "real world" career development and business information. His entrepreneurial approach will help you learn how to plan, lead and succeed in your career. To know more and claim dozens of Rogers FREE articles go to or call 509 999 7008.