4 Qualities All Successful CEOs Have in Common, and Why They Matter

Most successful leaders—those who have consistently increased the size of their businesses and reached the upper echelons of their industries—have similar personality traits, definitions of success and daily habits. Here are 4 qualities all successful CEOs have in common.

1. Their definition of success has evolved with their leadership.To continuously push themselves to become better leaders, top-performing CEOs reevaluate and revise their metrics for success throughout their career. “Initially, the definition of success for me was focused on my results, my promotions and my increase in compensation,” said Ned Hunter, CEO of Harrington Hoists, a $250 million subsidiary of Kito Group Company. “ As I have matured and evolved in my 30 years of business, my definition now is more about the people in my business…If my people succeed, then I have done my job.”

“Self-development is key: never give up learning. Arrogance starts to take over when you think you know everything. You never know where your greatest lesson will come from.”

2. They are committed to intellectual curiosity. Many CEOs credit their intellectual curiosity for their long-term success. A drive to learn, to improve, and to never become comfortable has propelled their businesses forward. Leading CEOs schedule time each day to read industry news. Jim Reavey, CEO and President of Vixxo, an asset management and business insight company, prioritizes continuous learning: “Self-development is key: never give up learning. Arrogance starts to take over when you think you know everything. You never know where your greatest lesson will come from.”

3. They acknowledge the contributions of others, and they want to return the favor. Successful CEOs recognize that their mentors, colleagues and employees have bolstered or accelerated their success. “An individual’s success is usually tied to the contributions of others. Forgetting this is a mistake,” said Greg Ergenbright, President of Schindler Elevation Corporation. Many CEOs see “paying it forward” as part of their new mission, especially CEOs who are well into their careers. In the words of Jim Reavey: “I feel a sense of obligation to develop others because of the leadership guidance and coaching I received in my life. Sharing my knowledge, empowering others, and creating deeper relationships is at the forefront of everything I do.”

4. They do what they love, and they encourage others to do the same. While “passion” has become somewhat of a buzzword, successful CEOs faithfully follow their passion and believe that doing so is the key to their success and happiness. Alan McKim, Chairman and CEO of Clean Harbors, a $3 billion environmental services company, advises young people to make pursuing their passion the first priority.

“My advice for any young person is to determine what you enjoy,” stated McKim. “It’s important to go beyond the paycheck. Where do your passions lie? What will spur you to bring the most energy to your job every day? When you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to define what success means to you and how you can best achieve it.”


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