There have been many studies and articles over the years about characteristics of successful CEO's. I tried to summarize some of these characteristics, with a Baldrige spin, in 2013 with A Sense of Comity. Certainly, key characteristics include setting a vision, communicating and listening, and building trust.
A topic that I have not seen discussed over the years is what executives value in their most senior leader. That topic has recently been explored in a survey of more than 1,750 executives in 19 markets worldwide and was summarized in an HBR blog by Leslie Gaines-Ross. There were three characteristics that were valued most highly. I'll start with numbers two and three. They are visibility and persuasiveness. 81% of global executives believed that their CEO's had to have a visible public profile for their company to be highly regarded. Furthermore, the CEO must convey the company's story in a convincing manner in both traditional communication vehicles and in digital social media. The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence started emphasizing this latter vehicle for CEO communication in 2013.
The number one attribute that executives value in their CEO is humility. And only one out of four CEO's in the study were described as humble by their executives. However, the study found that highly regarded CEO's were six times as likely to be described as humble than their less highly regarded peers. Why is such value placed on humility? Because humble leaders are believed to demonstrate many of the other important leadership attributes: motivating and empowering employees, developing shared values, and listening well. They build a supportive organizational culture.
These characteristics of humble CEO's are supported by a recent article in the Financial Post (Canada). It quotes a study of 63 companies by Yi Amy Ou, an assistant professor at National University of Singapore’s business school. She reported that organizations led by humble CEO's increased engagement and improved performance throughout the organization. Some additional data on the benefits of a humble CEO from the article:
The Baldrige Quest for Excellence conference on April 12-15, 2015 provides an opportunity to hear from and interact with some role model CEO's, including the four 2014 Baldrige award winners and Katherine Gottlieb from Southcentral Foundation, who will be recognized for her visionary leadership and will be delivering a keynote presentation.
Whether you can join us or not, how is your organization doing on the "H" word?