What Sets Successful CEOs Apart

What Sets Successful CEOs Apart

Success as a CEO can be measured in many ways. Factors such as strength of business dealings, employee and client satisfaction, and business sustainability all contribute to a CEO’s reputation.

While these factors may vary, however, there are several qualities common amongst successful CEOs that contribute to these measurements. Here are a few qualities that are sure to improve any CEO’s legacy.

Being Unconventional

The best CEOs are hard to predict. The common saying “without risk there can be no reward” is seldom more applicable than it is to business. Reasonable risks, chances, and gambles are sometimes necessary to elicit success as a CEO.

The CEOs behind successful ventures like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Tesla all took big, calculated gambles when launching their respective products – and their risks paid off exponentially. Sure, failure might happen, but that’s true even for the best-planned ventures. A great CEO prepares for failure as much as possible, but if it happens, they learn from their mistakes and move on to the next opportunity.

Unconventional thinking regarding client interactions are increasingly necessary as traditional business practices start to fade out. For example, focusing on digital advertising on a platform such as Dil Mil to reach out to potential youth clientele might be more successful than traditional TV, print, or radio advertising. Social media marketing, when done right, is a powerful tool and cannot be overlooked when strategizing.

Unconventional thinking also applies to the best CEOs’ business partners. For example, in a male-dominated industry such as venture capital, it often pays off to work with a female business partner to gain a perspective that one’s competition might not have. Being unconventional exposes CEOs to hidden advantages, helping them rise above the rest.


The best CEOs are their authentic selves. People can tell when others are saying what they think they want to hear – being insincere can destroy any notion of trust and will frustrate future business dealings. Solid and long-term business relationships form when all parties concerned are able to trust each other.

Genuinely caring about one’s product and company and being passionate in all business dealings are key to any CEO’s success. No one wants to buy something if there’s no enthusiasm for the product. Successful CEOs genuinely believe in and live for their products, their company, and their customers.

Great CEOs also sincerely care for their employees by demonstrating an interest in their goals, hobbies, safety, and overall work satisfaction. A good leader recognizes that cared-for employees are often the most motivated. Maintaining motivation amongst one’s staff and associates will ensure that the business thrives for a long time to come.

Working Harder

The most successful CEOs don’t simply work hard – they work harder. Since a CEO’s legacy is often measured against other CEOs, rising to the top means working harder than the rest. Effort, time, thought, and persistence are absolutely necessary to be successful.

A strong CEO knows every aspect of the business, product, industry, partners, and clients. Decisions have to be made, and while risks may be necessary, the best way to mitigate failure is through hard, thorough work.

Part of working harder is also adapting and being flexible. Business goals, partners, clients, and employees all continually evolve. As a result, great CEOs pay attention to these changes, reflect, and adapt accordingly.


Success isn’t sustainable if the person gets burnt out and is unhappy with life. Many CEOs like to take their work home with them – oftentimes, this is necessary. However, being a great CEO doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has to be a workaholic. The best CEOs recognize their limits.

Strong CEOs know that if someone needs to separate business life and personal life to be happy and well-rested, they should. Nothing good comes from spending too much energy compensating for a low sense of fulfillment or running oneself into the ground with constant work. It just takes away from the energy necessary to maintain a successful business. In essence, a great CEO recognizes when he or she needs space from the job, rests up, and hits the ground running. 

There isn’t one perfect strategy or personality that makes for a successful CEO. However, keeping certain qualities in mind will help any business leader start on the journey to a great legacy.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

Read next: April in Africa: Mastercard goes biometric while continental internet is hit or miss