Embrace these five habits of great CEOs to grow as a leader

Whether you run your own business or are aiming to start one, try these tips to be a better and more effective leader.

Embrace these five habits of great CEOs to grow as a leader

Wednesday February 20, 2019,

6 min Read

The title of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is one of the most coveted titles in the world. CEOs of leading companies are expected to be intelligent, charismatic, great communicators and leaders, and have a number of other qualities that help them lead a large company.

Increasingly, CEOs are leaders tasked with giving consumers what they most want. A CEO or senior business leader often has his or her pulse on the minds of consumers and is expected to be able to deliver to consumers what they most want. But what is it that sets a CEO apart from the umpteen others?

Understand what people need

To understand how much of a visionary a CEO has to be, one must recognise how the need for social media was identified by business leaders years before there ever was any inclination of social media. At the close of the last century, leaders in business said people would want to share their story with the world in the future. This is a simple proposition yet one that is so vague and open-ended that a layperson has difficulty understanding its implications. Yet this simple belief proved right and today social media, the most powerful medium connecting people, serves this purpose.

Social media allows people to share their lives with others. Whether for good or bad and despite all its problems, social media touches the lives of billions and shapes opinions, elections, and allows a layperson with little academic promise to become a celebrity overnight. CEOs must have their hand on the pulse of the populace, understand their needs, and then to take steps to fulfill such needs.

Understanding what motivates people is crucial to becoming a successful leader. 

Great CEOs must have a broad worldview that allows them to spot trends and lets them listen to consumers. If a company has a great product that isn’t selling, a successful CEO should be able to pinpoint why. For instance, Tropicana in 2009 changed the packaging of its orange juice carton; however, complaints from customers quickly forced the Tropicana leadership to use the earlier design. The Tropicana example proved that while good CEOs must be open to change and experimentation, they must eagerly to listen to customers as well.

In India, many young people often resorted to opening beer bottles with their teeth because they couldn’t find an opener at an opportune time. This is why a few years ago beer sold in bottles that could be opened without an opener became popular. Clearly, recognising seemingly trivial problems and finding solutions to them will allow CEOs to create a demand for their company’s products.

No person is too small

One of the greatest leaders in recent decades, Jack Welch was infamously called Neutron Jack because under his leadership General Electric fired 10 percent of its poorest performers every year. Hence the title Neutron, derived from the neutron reaction that precedes a nuclear explosion because so many lost their jobs under Jack Welch. Despite firing so many people every year, he was admired for his leadership skills.

An attribute that particularly stood out was that he knew the names of everyone who worked for him. He even knew the names of employees who worked on important assembly lines and could speak to them on a first name basis. That’s leadership. The advantage of knowing so many people by their first name was one reason why Jack Welch was so deeply admired by those who worked for GE, despite his well-earned title of Neutron Jack.

Exude positive energy

Leaders don’t slouch and they aren’t sullen. To be a successful leader, one must exude positive energy most of the time. This doesn’t mean that a leader should be loud or continuously attract attention to him or herself; it simply means that his or her energy should be infectious and spur the team to work their best.

Positive energy is useful even if one is not a leader; in fact, it’s likely for someone with positive energy to become a successful leader even if for the moment they aren’t. Positive energy allows a person to navigate the difficult times in their lives with less difficulty than someone lacking such energy. It also allows a person to envision the kind of future they want to create and take steps to make such a future a reality.

Read everyday

Some of the best leaders in the world have a reading list. In fact, Indra Nooyi used to (and likely still does) read one book every day. Being well read is crucial to being a successful leader because it allows one to absorb diverse ideas that can ignite the mind. Such ideas can lead to a new way of doing things or to the successful creation of new products. Reading every day also ignites the imagination.

To see why, consider that books such as the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand gave insights into the benignity of capitalism to laypersons and industry leaders alike, at a time when communism appeared destined to triumph. Ayn Rand had predicted years before the collapse of communism that it would collapse, yet most people didn’t believe her. She was right, and those who read her books and believed her ideology were guided by a sanguine voice that allowed them to live life well and to organise society in the most benign manner possible. Her ideas shape much of our world even today.

But it’s not necessary to read a book every day to be a successful leader. Reading one every fortnight will also help gain insights into the world. However, it's a good idea to make one’s reading varied and be exposed to a number of different authors from around the world.

Learn to be decisive

A leader must lead. This means that a good leader must often be willing to make difficult decisions. A good decision is often based on knowledge, experience, and also what some leaders call “a gut feeling” but which one can also call intuition. To be a successful leader one must be willing to give decisive answers such as “Yes” or “No”. There should be little or no wavering when telling someone what needs to be done. A leader must have sufficient knowledge to make the right decision more often than he or she makes a wrong one or no decision at all.

Whether leaders are born or whether they're made is a question for the ages. However, every able leader today has some of the qualities mentioned above or participates in the activities mentioned. Rather than questioning what came before, the chicken or the egg, it’s perhaps a better idea to try and emulate what successful leaders do or have done in an effort to become a leader oneself. After all, being able to learn from others is also a quality a good leader possesses. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.