What Makes a Good CEO?

Engage May 18, 2017

What Makes a Good CEO?

Bejan Douraghy
Bejan founded Artisan Talent in 1988 with only a great idea and $1,000 in his pocket. Now he’s proud to say that Artisan has been inspiring better lives and matching talent with the perfect jobs and clients not only in Chicago, but also in New York City, Indianapolis, Washington D.C., Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

It might seem a bit gratuitous to be a CEO talking about what makes a CEO, but I’m far from declaring myself perfect.* Whether you’re an entry-level manager or starting your own company as CEO, here are some tips for being the best boss you can be.

First thing first: How do you measure a “good” CEO?

It can be hard to quantify, but Glassdoor is a good place to start. Is your value solely determined by Glassdoor ratings? Of course not, but it can be an appropriate indication of what past and present employees think of you. Steel yourself, and go check your company’s profile.

Have your number? Here’s what went into it: when analyzing study results, Glassdoor found the following elements to correlate with rankings of CEOs:

  • Pay: Higher CEO compensation is statistically linked to lower CEO approval ratings on average.
  • Culture: A satisfied workforce is an essential driver of ratings. Good culture including career advancement opportunities and quality of compensation/benefits reflects on CEO approval.
  • Founders: CEOs who are also their company’s founder predict significantly higher approval ratings than those externally hired or promoted.
  • Performance: Not surprisingly, CEOs of more profitable companies receive higher approval ratings.

Wondering how you can improve your leadership?

Here are just six simple ways to help improve your leadership style and ultimately be a “good CEO” that I have found to work personally among my peers and myself.

1.  Research 

Career Contessa’s Karen Schneider suggests reaching out for advice to mentors or fellow C-suite personnel you respect, so you can emulate them. Think about previous managers or CEOs—what qualities did they have? “Consider how you can emulate those you admire, and avoid repeating the mistakes of those who were uninspiring and fell short in their given capacity.” You’re never too old to learn either. Consider setting up weekly meetings with a mentor to improve your leadership skills. As leadership speaker Marshall Goldsmith points out: “Executive coaching introduced an exciting new idea: the end of shame when it comes to needing help.” There’s nothing wrong with asking for advice.

2.  Reach Out

Similar to asking for advice, consider joining a peer-to-peer community of fellow entrepreneurs and/or C-level executives. Two organizations I am an active member of are EO and Vistage. This is where I’ve learned to become a better CEO, leader, mentor, and decision maker. Peer groups allow you to get solid experience in sharing and can help hold you accountable for promises you’ve made to your board and employees.

3.  Listen 

Make an effort to get to know your employees and to stay in touch with their work-life by scheduling one-on-one meetings every week. These check-ins not only serve to get to know your team better, but also allow you to get a feel for your employees’ overall job satisfaction and share your vision for the company. After all, sharing your vision and mission makes it accessible and relatable, and allows everyone to work toward a common goal.

4.  Exemplify

As CEO you are always leading by example. So you need to make it clear that you value health, family, work-life balance, and whatever other priorities you or your company might have. That means doing things like taking your vacation days and respecting others’ beliefs and faiths. After all, if the boss doesn’t model the behavior, no one else will.

5.  Macro-Manage

A study published by SuccessFactors concluded that employees (millennials especially) crave feedback from their managers. Yet, no one wants a boss that constantly peers over their shoulder or doesn’t trust them to get their job done. While you can have control over how work is done, you don’t need to busy yourself in the nitty-gritty of each individual job. If you thoroughly onboard employees successfully and use your one-on-one check-ins, you won’t have to micro-manage. Look at your company from a macro level, and trust your employees to do the work, only stepping in when necessary. “The greatest thing you can do for your employees is to nurture and develop their talent,” says Schneider. Need another great quote? David Ogilvy once said, “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it.”

6.  Celebrate

“Nobody wants to work at a place where the only reward for good work is more work,” says INC. columnist Bill Murphy Jr. Make sure to celebrate success by taking your team out for happy hour or sending in lunch on occasion. I’m a big believer in this. In fact, it’s one of my suggestions for simple ways to inspire your staff.

The bottom line? Everyone can be a good CEO.

Doing these six things on a regular basis? Then congratulations, you’re probably a good CEO. If not, there’s nothing wrong with taking time for a little improvement today, and being a great leader tomorrow.

*Who am I? I’m the Founder/CEO of Artisan Talent, an award-winning digital, creative, and marketing staffing agency I started back in 1988 with only $1,000 in my pocket. Learn more about my background on ArtisanTalent.com.