19 Qualities of a Great CEO

In America, you can go to the city hall and register any business for less than $200. You can then call yourself a CEO. You can even get a business card and add the title, “CEO” to your card. But do you know what it takes to be a real CEO, a great CEO? It’s when hundreds of other people call you a CEO. At that point you’ve earned the right for other people to see you as a CEO So before you become a great CEO, you have to act, behave, walk, talk, and think like a CEO. By the way, way before I became a CEO, I worked on thinking like a CEO, and walking like a CEO. I’d ask myself how I’d make a decision like a CEO. And then I became a CEO. Years later, other people started seeing me as a CEO, and the rest is history. So today I get into the qualities of a great CEO. I’m telling you this from the perspective of a lot my personal mistakes, to help you become a great CEO. Regardless of whether you plan on becoming a great CEO or not, what you learn will help with your leadership abilities.

Here are 19 qualities of a great CEO

#1: Know How to Manage Their Ego

First, great CEOs know how to manage their ego. Let me explain. Nobody becomes a CEO who doesn't have an ego. Nobody. Not a single soul becomes a CEO who doesn't have an ego. So there's nothing wrong with a having a big ego. But you have to learn how to manage your ego, because if you can't control it, you're definitely in big trouble. Let me explain why. When you become very successful and start making a lot of money, and have fame and all this other stuff, something happens. You get flooded with compliments. People say things like, "You're so amazing! You're so ridiculously good! Oh, you're better than __________." Many people feed you this stuff because you're surrounded by people who are afraid of the decisions you make. For instance, your team may fear you will fire them. So everybody tells you how amazing you are. Let me tell you, 90% of it is lies. I just want you to know that. Because most people are not going to tell you what you need to hear. You need a small circle of people around you that tell you the truth, because that will help you manage your ego. If you don't have a small group of people such as a board or mentors that aren't afraid to tell you off, you're going to be in trouble. I've seen this happen in sales many times. People start making money, and everyone tells them how amazing they are. They're no longer coachable or willing to learn. They don't listen to anything. That's a sign that they forgot how to manage their own ego.

#2: Have a Touch of Humility

Next, every great CEO has a touch of humility. Do you know why humility helps? Because if you're humble, other people want to work with you. If you don't have humility, you can't bring people together. Without humility, people who disagree with you won't want to do business with you, and you can't have an environment with a lot of different personalities. Humility is an extremely important quality of a great CEO.

#3: Are Extremely Driven

Listen in here to discover how every great CEO is extremely driven. Here is where you'll also see some fun gifts I gave at a recent dinner in my favorite building in the world.

#4: Care for Their People

Next, great CEOs care for their people. I got a call the other day from a guy I worked with a long time ago. We spoke about some private things. I hadn't talked to him for a long time, but I mentored him many, many years ago. He was like family. I protected him and looked over him. When he called me he said, "Pat, every single time I make a decision, I ask myself, 'What would Patrick do in this situation?'" He went on to say that some of the best times he had in business was working with me, and that he learned a lot from me. I got another call from a guy named Danny. He called me a year-and-a-half ago in tears. He said, "you have no idea how reluctant I've been about calling you because it's been a decade." I replied, "Danny, what's going on?" Even though it had been a decade, I remember everything about the people that worked for me. I remember their stories because I care about them. He said, "Pat, I have to tell you something." He got quiet, and I wondered why he was crying. He said, "I'm now the president of the bank I work at. I'm doing very well. I am married. I am so happy I can't even tell you. I'm making a multi six-figure a year income. And I'm here to tell you, everything I'm putting in this leadership position, is the stuff I learned when I was working in the business with you."

Your Most Important Product

Regardless of where in the world you are reading this from, and whether or not we'll ever meet, I want you to realize that the only way you'll be called a great CEO is if you realize that the most important product you will ever have is the people around you. If you forget that, you're in deep doo doo. Here's why. They make you look good. Without them, you're nonexistent. So if you think the world revolves around you as a CEO, you're in deep trouble. Without them, nothing happen. By the way, there is fake care, and people can tell. And then there's real sincerity and authenticity, where you truly care about the people around you. You have to really care about your people. So ask yourself how often do you care about your people. Do you think about their dreams, goals, and purpose? Are you thinking from that standpoint? If you are, you're going to end up becoming a great CEO one day.

#5: Study Human Nature

Next, to be a great CEO, you have to study human nature. Why human nature? Because great CEOs realized a very, very long time ago that their number one product is not technology. We went to a Dallas Cowboys game with a technology guy. We were negotiating with the CEO of the company. Tom asked him, "How long have you been coding?" He replied, "I've never coded in my life." Wait a minute, we cut a massive check to you, and you've never coded?" He said, "I've never coded in my life." Neither he nor the biz dev guy had ever coded. But they were both good in one thing. Human nature. Because the number one product is not coding. The number one product is not insurance, annuities, and all this other stuff. By the way, if you're a CEO and you know your products very well, you have an edge on everybody. So don't for a moment think "Thank God, because I know nothing about my product." I'm not giving you an out. You have to learn the product, but the number one product of all is human nature. You have to know what happens when people are down, why this person's not all in, and why another person's being a little forgetful. Take them out to lunch and talk to them and ask, "Is everything okay? How is your wife doing? Are the kids good?" Because business is purely relationships.

#6: Comfortable Handling Contradictions

Next, to be a great CEO, you have to be comfortable handling contradictions. Listen in here for what I mean by handling contradictions.

#7: Think Outside the Box

Next, great CEOs think outside the box. It's not always one way of doing anything. They regularly think outside the box. One of the videos I did on thinking outside the box is How to Think Big as an Entrepreneur. That's a video you ought to watch. But a great CEO connects the dots and thinks about doing things in ways they haven't been done in the past. They're willing to think a little bit different than most people would think.

#8: They Have a Reputation

Next, a great CEO has a reputation. Listen in here for an example of a CEO that couldn't be pushed around by competitors.

#9: They're Great at Asking Questions

Next, every great CEO is great at asking questions. When they don't understand something, they ask a question. When they want to find out the deeper issues, they know how to ask the right questions. By the way, it's not just asking questions, but knowing how to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions gets the right answer that solves bigger problems. Study great CEOs and the questions they ask you and you'll see that you were thinking about the surface, but the great CEO asks questions that go much deeper.

#10: They Want Feedback

Number 10, the best CEOs want feedback. They ask questions like, "What do you think? What are your thoughts?" They know who to get the right feedback from and constantly ask for feedback.

#11: They're Always Raising Standards

Next, they always raise standards. It's uncomfortable being around a strong CEO, a great CEO. A lot of people don't like to work with great CEOs. It's uncomfortable, because they're always raising their standards. They almost have a feeling of it never being enough, that they're not there yet. People may say, "Every time I get somewhere, you move the marker. When are you going to be fully happy?" That's what makes them so special. That's why history books are going to favor them when they die.

#12: They Build Strong Alliances

Next, they build strong alliances. Remember when I talked about humility? They build strong alliances because they know they can only go so far by themselves. If you type Amazon and Toys R Us case study in Google, you'll see that Amazon built a strong alliance with Toys R Us. If there was no alliance, there would be no Amazon. Here's another example. When Steve Jobs was about to go out of business, he went to Microsoft. Bill Gates was his biggest enemy, but he went to him and said, "I need $300 million." Bill Gates gave it to him. But imagine what would happen if he didn't build that alliance. He'd be out of business. Today was use our iPhone and other devices because someone was good at building alliances.

#13: They Speak Different Languages

Next, a great CEO speaks different languages. What do I mean by that? I'm not talking about languages like English and Spanish. Let me elaborate. They speak to employees in a different way than they speak to executives, and to executives different than they speak to salespeople and salespeople different than they speak to investors. The speak to media in a different way than they speak to their team, or their family. Listen, you cannot go talk to the front desk clerk at a company where you're the CEO as if that person is a full-on executive. Why? Because it's a different language. So you have to know these different languages. You can't go to an investor and just kind of lollygag with them while they're expecting returns on their tens of millions of dollars they gave you. To learn more about the languages of CEOs check out the article and video below.

The 7 Audiences of a CEO


#14: They Know Their Weaknesses

Great CEOs know their strengths very well. But guess what? They know their weaknesses even more. Here's why. The great ones are very comfortable being weak. The reason is that they recruit their weaknesses. So whatever they're weak at, they bring somebody whose strength is in their area of weakness. Simple. And the sooner you identify your weaknesses, the sooner you're going to be able to leverage your abilities to focus on your strengths and not have to worry about your weaknesses. You can always recruit your weaknesses.

#15: They Know What They Do and Don't Know

Next, a great CEO knows what they do and don't know. This is similar to weaknesses but not. What I mean is that whatever they don't know, they know the person who can get them the answer. They know who to call to get the answer to something they don't know and they're fine with that.

#16: They're Very Decisive

Great CEOs are very decisive. The other day Tom told me, "Pat, when you want to fire somebody, it's like [snap] that quick." I typically give someone three chances. If I notice someone just isn't fitting in, or they're up and down over and over again, they're gone. This doesn't mean that the person is a bad person. They're just not going to fit in a place like this because for whatever reason, the culture doesn't fit with that person. They may go to a completely different place and be happy, just not on this team.

#17: Timing

Next timing. A great CEO has the right timing in things like :

• Business • Statements • Comments • Marketing campaigns • Breaks • Initiatives • Sales

Everything's about timing and a great CEO is very good at timing.

#18: They're Very Strong Drivers

Next they're very strong drivers. If there's an initiative, they will drive it over and over and over and over again, until you do it. They will drive the initiative nonstop. That's what makes these guys special. They drive. And the moment you thought they forgot about them, they're about to give you a speech on driving that initiative, and why everybody should be focused on that.

#19: Very Good at Rallying the Troops

Last they're very good at rallying the troops. A great CEO knows how to get the troops going. Whether it's the sales team, home office, or support, they know how to rally the troops. So those are 19 different qualities of a great CEO. And by the way, if you're watching this and saying, "Oh my gosh! I have a lot of work to do!" know that all of this stuff is going to take years. Don't expect to be good at this overnight. It's just good to look at this list and see which areas you need to improve to become a great CEO. Then one day, you won't just be someone that calls themselves a CEO just because you registered a business and bought business cards. You'll know you're a great CEO when other people start looking at you as one. 



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