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The 17 Surprising Qualities Every Successful CEO Has

From a healthy amount of networking to bringing ideas to life, here are the 17 answers to the question, “What are some surprising qualities that every successful CEO seems to have?”

Always Introducing Their Networks

CEOs are uniquely positioned to be “connectors” for professionals they know and value. In recent years alone, I have introduced countless internal and external assets in my business to other leaders, recruiters, and stakeholders, which led to different business partnerships.

Inevitably, business leaders meet myriads of people while running and growing their businesses. It is necessary to collect and coordinate the right resources, achieve quick results with a fast turnaround, or bring in the right talent to improve our organizations.

When we network these assets together, we help nurture communities that help each other profit along multiple avenues. Any professional with a big dream cannot achieve that vision alone and must enmesh themselves into symbiotic relationships that help them reach their goals.

Guna Kakulapati, Co-Founder & CEO, CureSkin

Motivating Others to Lead Alongside You

Leadership isn’t about doling out tasks and telling people what to do and how to do it. It’s about imbuing others with the desire to lead alongside you. Everyone on your team should share the same goals as you. 

People want to follow leaders who are accountable, honest, have paid their dues, and have clear goals in mind. If you state clearly the kinds of achievements that are realistic and ambitious, and if you can provide the right road map to earn those achievements, you will be successful. 

It seems every successful CEO knows how to do that and as a result; they inspire others to lead alongside them. A great coach always has a great coaching staff. That’s often how it works with great CEOs, too.

Rachel Blank, Founder & CEO, Allara

Scrappy and Resourceful

Business owners are scrappy and resourceful. It’s not just common, it’s necessary to survive the crests and troughs of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs have strategic networks, resourceful contacts, and learned workarounds that help them overcome unforeseen obstacles. Being “scrappy” is to embody solution-minded flexibility. CEOs have this quality because businesses require constant pivoting, re-prioritizing, and creating opportunities out of problems.

Without the commitment to making things work and a go-getter attitude, businesses cede to circumstances. The real hustle is to make problem-solving an opportunity and continue making things benefit you even when they seem difficult to get past.

Zach Goldstein, CEO & Founder, Public Rec

Willing to Work on the Frontlines

It can be easy for a CEO to just sit back and oversee their company from a distance. But the best CEOs will step up and work alongside their employees when things get busy or hard. 

Successful CEOs are aware of how their company’s processes work because they try to help in these processes when they can. Employees want a CEO who is involved in the grunt/dirty work. No one likes to do tedious tasks. But when employees see their CEO will do arduous tasks, they are more willing to perform their own onerous ones. 

Companies should feel like a team of people working side by side to reach goals and success—NOT a political pyramid that everyone wants to climb. As business leaders try to spend time in every department/process, their employees will recognize their efforts and have more empathy and understanding toward them.

Aerin Ogden, Digital Marketing Manager, QFloors

The Ability to Fail Boldly

People focus on the “wins” of successful leaders, but nobody reaches the executive level without having a few career mistakes or a failure or two under their belts. What defines successful CEOs is their ability to not just take these mistakes in stride and learn from them, but to continue taking risks and making bold moves after a failure. 

Often, the most impactful career and business moves involve high risk, and someone who’s timid or gun-shy after having experienced a failure will be less likely to take a leap of faith that could propel them into an executive role, or push their company to the next level once they’re in that role. 

Successful CEOs can continue to take calculated risks even after a misstep, and that’s one of the main defining factors that separates exceptional leaders from those who are merely competent.

Archie Payne, CEO, Caltek Staffing

Care About Their Team Members

It may be surprising to learn that a CEO’s propensity to feel empathy and to show that they really care about their employees is an ingredient in their success. Certainly, there are many CEOs that don’t display this quality. However, I would argue that those CEOs who show that they care about their team members are more likely to have motivated and engaged employees, which makes a company more likely to achieve its goals. 

By focusing on the well-being of employees, CEOs can create a positive work culture that leads to higher levels of productivity and employee retention. Happy and fulfilled employees are more likely to be loyal to the company and provide excellent customer service, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Caring about employees can help to improve a company’s reputation, attracting top talent and making it a desirable place to work. In summary, CEOs who care about their employees are more likely to be successful.

Jennifer Drago, CEO & Founder, Peak to Profit, LLC

The Ability to Delegate

One surprising quality is the ability to delegate. We often see delegation as a weakness, but in reality, it is one of the most important qualities a CEO can have.

The ability to delegate means you trust your team and you will give them the responsibility to get the job done. This shows that you have confidence in your team and their ability to get the job done.

CEOs can trust others with tasks and responsibilities, which ‌helps them free up their time to do what they do best. They know that delegating tasks will not only save them time, but also help them be more productive.

Johannes Larsson, Founder & CEO,


After experiencing many successes and failures myself, I’ve noticed a common quality amongst successful CEOs: self-belief. 

Self-belief is an invaluable asset that helps a CEO pull through at the most difficult times when faced with challenging tasks and daunting expectations. Self-belief can be developed over the years through hard work and practice, but some people are born with it. 

This natural self-confidence seems to give them the edge in tough situations where other CEOs may struggle. Self-belief is truly one of the most surprising yet essential qualities that every successful CEO needs to have in order to reach their highest potential and achieve success.

Derek Bruce, Sr. Director, Skills Training Group


Leaders that develop strong empathy skills‌ create a culture that emphasizes compassion, understanding, and motivation. It provides empowerment to employees and naturally stokes the best out of people, increasing productivity and retention. 

Ultimately, when a CEO leverages empathy as the way to get things done—people feel more psychologically safe, take more risks, and reap more rewards for achieving company goals.

Tony Deblauwe, VP Human Resources, Celigo

Active Volunteerism and Putting People Over Profits

Service to others provides meaningful opportunities for leaders to gain greater objectivity while fueling their souls. Typically, a CEO leads a team they build, shape, and cultivate. 

However, that’s not the case when taking part in a volunteer program. You don’t get to do the hiring. You’re working for the greater good alongside other social-conscious do-gooders who also choose to be there. And the range of people you encounter exposes you to perspectives beyond the boardroom, enabling you to look at situations from an unbiased standpoint which is essential for team-building and collaboration. 

Active volunteerism also sets a gold-star standard for your employees to follow, putting the entire team on the path to personal and professional enrichment.

Maria Shriver, Co-Founder & CEO, MOSH

Unrelated Hobbies

When you are free, you like to do what is way beyond your office work and business. Many people have hobbies that have nothing to do with their services. But it is still effective to keep a person productive.

In the same way, a CEO also has the surprising quality of having unrelated hobbies. It can include singing, painting, and cooking. Winston Churchill was a mediocre painter despite having a distinguished career in politics, and Bill gates was an avid bridge player.

There are many other examples of successful people who have some odd hobbies that have nothing to do with their work. When you indulge in an unrelated hobby, your mind gets relaxed and you can focus on your work more effectively. Well, no people create their hobbies to have some work out of them.

They just have hobbies because they enjoy them. 

Sanjay Singh, Founder & CEO, Technource Inc.


A successful CEO must be able to quickly adjust their strategies and tactics in order to remain agile in a rapidly changing business landscape. Being able to recognize when it’s time to pivot is essential for success, as well as the ability to decide quickly and efficiently. 

This often requires an understanding of customer needs, market trends, and new technologies that can help a business stay competitive. A CEO must also be comfortable with uncertainty, as no one knows what the future holds and success often requires taking calculated risks. 

By being able to quickly recognize opportunities, anticipate challenges, and adapt, ‌successful CEOs can make better decisions that will help their company succeed.

Matt Teifke, CEO, Teifke Real Estate


I have had the privilege of working with extremely accomplished CEOs who, almost down to a person, are also some of the most humble people I have ever met. They regularly give credit for major business wins to everyone but themselves—and take the responsibility for corporate challenges. 

Perhaps they have learned that their level of accomplishments rests squarely on the capability of the teams they have recruited, hired, coached, and mentored. The outcome is the CEO can claim oversight of the corporate success while their leadership teams understand the value they have delivered is relevant to overall goals.

Amy L. Adler, President, Five Strengths Career Transition Experts

Know When to Ask for Help

Successful CEOs don’t do everything themselves. They understand the difference between a task that has to be completed by them and one they can delegate. They also know when to ask for guidance. To be a successful leader, you can’t be tied up with the idea that you know everything. It’s important to discern when you need to rely on someone else’s expertise.

Carrie Shaltz Haslup, Founder & CEO, Tabeeze

Data Literacy 

Harnessing data into an actionable force is a surprising quality that every successful CEO seems to have. There is so much noise out there that filtering your relevant data can be challenging. This is where successful CEOs have the upper hand.

Better decision-making requires being able to connect patterns and trends with the organization. Keep listening actively and pick up only the trends that speak to you. Such data-driven decisions require data literacy or data analytical skills. Some people run away from such tasks, thinking that it is better suited for data analytics. What they don’t realize is that there are tools and people they can weaponize to cover this uncharted territory.

CEOs usually have a lot on their plate as is and things are getting more challenging now that we are living in a time of uncertainty. This is where having the ability to make informed and data-driven decisions sets a successful CEO apart.

Andreas Grant, Founder, Networks Hardware


The surprising quality that every successful CEO seems to have is curiosity. A CEO is a leader. They have the responsibility to guide many teams. It’s a natural thing for them to have plenty of knowledge. But a successful CEO thinks they don’t have enough knowledge. 

They can never have enough wisdom. A successful CEO always has the hunger to learn more. They always look for opportunities that can give them more knowledge. Curiosity never leaves them. They ‌learn from their subordinates. A successful CEO can admit where they are wrong and acknowledge the correct suggestions from other employees. They also take part in classes and conferences to enhance their knowledge.

Ryan Knoll, Owner, Tidy Casa

Dream an Idea, Then Follow Through

CEOs can translate an idea into profit by implementing the right strategies, fostering a sense of kinship among colleagues, promoting workplace autonomy, and making those tough anxiety-inducing, split-second decisions.

While these may appear as several characteristics, they are all simply part of one quality. A CEO’s ability to turn dreams into reality by utilizing the resources provided to them, along with their own ingenuity.

Shawn Harris, CEO, UniqueGiftCards

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