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7 Traits That Set Successful CEOs Apart From Everyone Else

Brian Cristiano Nov 19, 2021

We can't say it loud enough: ANYONE who wants to become a successful CEO has what it takes to become one.

But, the reality is that most people who do want to become one never get there.  Even worse, most of them never even try!

As a result, we have a bunch of people with so much potential and a world that needs their greatness but it never comes out.

However, it doesn't have to be that way.

The truth is that anyone who wants to become a successful CEO can start to become one by studying people who have already achieved success, and then adopting the top traits that enabled them to be successful.

In fact, being able to learn from others is a sign of being a top CEO in itself!

To help you live up to your greatest potential, we are sharing 7 traits that set successful CEOs apart from everyone else. 

Learn these defining traits and then integrate them into your life if you also want to become a successful CEO in your own right.  

Don't let your potential go to waste!  The world needs the greatness that you have to offer.

 

What is the Most Common Factor in Successful CEOs?

 

While we are sharing 7 of the most common traits that set almost every successful CEOs apart from everyone else.... There is 1 single common denominator that sets EVERY successful CEO apart from others.

And, that is that every successful CEO spends less time thinking, talking, and contemplating, and more time doing!

They're not sitting at home spending an endless amount of time asking themselves whether or not they're going to take the risk.  Instead, they assess the risk and then take it if it's worth taking.

At the end of the day, you can't be a successful CEO if you aren't a taker of action.

Anyone, literally anyone, can talk big.  But, very few people can back that big talk up with big actions.

Therefore, if you want to be successful too, at some point you're also going to have to stop talking and start doing.

Until you can do that, you're going to stay exactly where you are.

 

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What Defines a Successful CEO?

 

Now, you might be asking yourself... What makes a CEO successful?

To start off, here are a few common answers that, while are good tries, aren't the truth:

  1. Those with the biggest bottom line
  2. The most well known
  3. The people who achieve their goals

Again, while these are all good tries, particularly the last one, none of them define what really makes a CEO a successful one.

With that being said, here's the simple answer: A successful CEO is one who uses all of their knowledge and power to make the most positive impact on society and themselves in the way that they believe they can do best!

It doesn’t matter what they do… Whether it’s coming up with the world’s best new healthcare company or creating art, all that matters is that they put in 100% of their efforts into the thing they know they do best and will benefit the most people (including themself).

It's not a matter of achieving goals by overcoming obstacles!  The truth is that there is always going to be a new roadblock... a new hurdle... or something else to desire...

Moreover, success can't be measured purely on checking boxes.  Because, once you check one box, you will quickly realize that there are 20 more boxes that still need to be checked!

Therefore, success is measured on whether or not you did the best to do the thing that you know would benefit society and yourself the most.  Plain and simple.

 

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1. They Leave Their Egos at the Door

 

These days, there's a lot of talk about the ego.  As a result, there are several different definitions of ego floating around out there.

For the sake of this article, we're defining ego as an inflated sense of self importance and abilities.

Now, there is NO place for ego in a successful entrepreneur or CEO.  When it comes to building a successful company, ego is the enemy!

People with huge egos shoot themselves in the foot because they believe that they are better than everyone else.  With that kind of an attitude, they completely shut themselves off from learning and self-improvement.

Moreover, they think they already know all that there is to know, so they shut down all possibilities of learning anything new!

In short: It's hard to teach something to someone who thinks they already know how to do it.

It's also essential not to confuse ego with self-confidence.

In fact, many people who have extremely big egos usually claim that they're simply very confident in themselves.  But, that couldn't be farther from the truth!

The truth is that people who have big egos are the opposite of confident.  And, they don't want to face that reality or show it to others.

As a result, they develop an ego as a front to protect themselves from internal and external scrutiny.  In a way, their ego acts as a shield from judgement.

So, what do successful CEOs have instead of an ego? 

Instead of having an ego, top CEOs have humility.

They know that there is always going to be somebody who is smarter, better looking, and sharper than they are... So they don't waste time falsely believing that they are on top of the world.

Having humility is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I am confident in myself, but I know I can always learn something new and improve!  Therefore, I stay open to other possibilities'.

Humility is a sign of true confidence.

When somebody is able to look at themself in the mirror and be vulnerable enough to know that they still have a lot to learn, it's a sign that they are truly confident.

Furthermore, if you want to join the ranks of the best CEOs in the world, you need to exchange your ego for humility.

 

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2. They Spend Less Time on Traditional Education

 

Over the past few years, some top CEOs have come under fire for their comments made about the state of the current global education system.

One of those CEOs is Elon Musk.  The infamous founder of Tesla and SpaceX received a lot of scrutiny for making comments about the low value of a college education in terms of setting one up for a life of success and fulfillment.

And, he's not the only one who has made those kinds of comments!  Others include Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

Before going any further, we're going to stop and make a point...

In no way are we trying to say that top entrepreneurs like Musk, Gates, and Zuckerberg don't believe in getting a traditional schooling education.  Nor are we trying to suggest that!

Instead, what we are saying is that they don't see traditional education as the key or sole way to unlock business success.  

While it is certainly a piece of the puzzle, it isn't the whole!  And if it were, then there would be way more successful entrepreneurs out there today.

With that being said, many successful CEOs spend less time pursuing traditional education paths like formal business school and more time learning on the job or going through specialized training programs.

The reason why is because they understand one of the major issues with our education system today…  And that is that it spends more time teaching people what to think and less time teaching them how to think!

As a result, the education system turns out a lot of highly knowledgeable people who don't know what to do with that knowledge!

Meanwhile, the top entrepreneurs and CEOs are empowering themselves with the tools they need to make decisions on their own!

They understand that school will educate them with knowledge, but won't necessarily empower them to take initiatives with that knowledge.

That being said, if you want to grow and improve your business, then you need to empower yourself and your team members with the tools necessary to put existing knowledge to work!

 

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3. They Keep Things Simple

 

Speaking of our education system, do you want to know another unfortunate, untrue lesson that it teaches us?

The education system teaches us that, in order to create something effective, it needs to be complicated.

The more complicated it is, the better it is going to work!

However, that couldn't be further from the truth, and successful CEOs know this!

Don't believe us?  Ask yourself this question... Why have Apple's iPhone, laptops, and software been SO revolutionary in the technology world?

Technically, there were plenty of phones and computers out there before Steve Jobs came along, so what was it that really put Apple over the edge?

Straight-up: Apple is so successful because their products are the simplest, most straightforward ones available on the market!

They are some of the world's most powerful tools, yet they're so simple that small babies can operate them without ever having been taught by somebody else.

Similarly, Jeff Bezos created Amazon based on the simple fact that people want more options in less time.  And, that's probably the least overly-complicated fact out there.

Moreover, a successful CEO’s job is to keep things as simple as possible to achieve success.  To do so, they uncover people's basic needs and then find straightforward means of fulfilling those needs.

And, you don't need to be a revolutionary thinker to uncover what people's needs are, because the truth is that most of our needs are very simple!

If you want to join the ranks of the world's most successful entrepreneurs, then you need to get the idea out of your head that success is complicated.

 

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4. They Keep Success In Perspective

 

We already talked about what defines a successful chief executive officer.

As a refresh, it isn't a simple matter of checking boxes to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.  Because, the truth is that obstacles never stop coming!

Rather, it's the overall impact that they are able to make on a society.

With that being said, in order to stay sane and perform at their highest level, CEOs keep that in mind while going through the process.  Moreover, they don’t let the cloudiness of the situation deter them.

How do they not let the difficulties of the process deter them?  Simple: They don't let it deter them because they embrace the difficulties!

The truth is that the difficulties you encounter are actually your path to success.  Overcoming them isn't the goal... It's the way!

Moreover, success isn’t born out of overcoming challenges, because there are always going to be more challenges.

Instead, it's about what you learn while overcoming those challenges and how you use what you learn to make a more positive impact.  It's a simple shift in perspective that can make all the difference in not just your success, but your fulfillment. 

Rather than looking at it from the perspective of, 'This challenge sucks and I need to overcome it', you need to look at it from the perspective of, 'Overcoming this challenge is my opportunity to make a more positive impact!'.

Whatever challenge you're currently facing in your business (or life), that challenge is actually an opportunity in disguise.

 

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5. They Don’t Force Themselves Into Boxes

 

Today more than ever, people believe that they need to follow a set of norms to succeed.

The truth is that we are literally walking around with little computers in our pockets that are tricking us into believing that... if we want to succeed, be happy, and fit in... then we just need to do/buy ____ .

In case you haven't picked up on it yet, we're talking about the influence of social media!

While we don't hate social media (in fact, we love it!), we can't deny that, if we don't keep it in check or look at from the bigger picture, it'll mislead us into thinking that we need to fulfill a set of norms to achieve our goals.

But, that couldn't be further from the truth, and the most successful CEOs and business leaders know that.

To put it simply: If you also want to be successful, then stop forcing yourself to fit into specific boxes that you simply don't fit into.

By doing so, you're literally putting a cap on top of your ability to grow.

Let's take Oprah Winfrey for example...  Early on in her career, she was told that she didn't fit a standard of so-called norms necessary for television.  Instead of trying to conform to fit those small boxes, she walked away and started her own network.

Furthermore, had Oprah believed that there was a set of norms she had to follow and tried to conform to them, we probably wouldn't be talking about her right now.

 

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6. They’re Not Patient

 

When are we finally going to stop telling people that they need to be patient if they want to achieve their goals?

Here's a hard truth that you may have never heard before: If you want to be successful in business, you need to STOP being patient.

Why?

Because... When someone says they're being patient, what they're really saying is that, instead of being focused on the present moment, they are thinking about the future.  Even worse, they don't want the present... They want the future!

And when you are constantly focused on the future, it takes your eyes off of the present moment and all of the opportunities that it is presenting you with!

Not only that, but constantly being focused on a far off moment that doesn't even exist yet is like asking for anxiety to enter your body.

Therefore, instead of waking up every day and saying, 'I just need to be patient', the most successful entrepreneurs wake up every day and say, 'What do I need to do today?'.

With that kind of an attitude, they're able to put in 100% of their energy into their work!  They're completely focused on the present moment and using their time wisely, instead of thinking about some far off moment.

The next time that someone tells you that you just need to be patient, forget about it.

Instead, set goals and create dreams for yourself, but don't be patient!  Get to work doing the things that are within your power at the present moment to make those dreams a reality.

The more you tell yourself you need to be patient, the more focused you are on the future and less on the present.  And the less focused you are on the present, the more opportunities will pass you by.

 

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7. They Spend Less Time Comparing Themselves to Others

 

We can sit here all day and talk about what makes successful CEOs successful.  

But at the end of the day, we have to be careful that we don't get to a point where studying CEOs turns into comparing ourselves to them.

While we can and should learn lessons from people who have already achieved the kind of success that we also want to achieve, we have to be careful that it doesn't turn into comparing ourselves to them, and then trying to mimic them completely!

For example, you can look up to Larry Page and Tim Cook, but you need to be careful that you don't compare yourself to them and subsequently try to turn into them!

This mistake is particularly common amongst new CEOs and entrepreneurs. 

To put it simply... Successful CEOs spend less time comparing themselves to others and more time assessing their own growth.

In order to assess their own growth, they create metrics (that are actually measurable) to track their progress.

For example, many of the top CEOs diligently track whether or not they are achieving work-life balance by tracking the amount of time spent with their friends and family versus work.

These assessments allow them to keep tabs on their own progress instead of constantly comparing themselves to the progress of others.

Top CEOs understand that their success isn't going to be anything like that of any other CEO.  

Not only that, but they realize that trying to mimic someone else's path minimizes what makes them unique.  As a result, they only end up making negative progress.

Furthermore, successful CEOs learn lessons from other successful CEOs, but they don't waste their time comparing themselves to them.

In the end, comparison only steals your joy and minimizes the unique qualities that you bring to the table!

 

Final Thoughts on What Sets Successful CEOs Apart From the Rest

 

At the end of the day, we can't deny the fact that there are SO many people out there with so much potential who simply aren't doing as much as they could to achieve success.

Particularly, first-time CEOs and CEOs who maybe have been in the game for a while, but are looking to take things up a notch!

Let's learn from the world's most successful CEOs and apply what makes them different from everyone else to our own lives.

In the end, while the above 7 traits are what set most successful CEOs apart from the rest, the common denominator among all successful CEOs is that they simply stopped talking and started doing!

So, are you going to stop talking, thinking, and contemplating, to step up to the plate to become the greatest version of yourself?