While it might sound fancy, being a CEO is not easy. As the leader of your company, you’re expected to satisfy the needs and expectations of employees, customers, investors, communities and more. To boot, you’re often solely responsible for moving the company forward and propelling growth and success. Talk about pressure!
As an entrepreneur myself, I know that it takes a lot of hard work, passion and dedication to even get a business off the ground. Taking it to the next level is even harder. While there is no cookie-cutter recipe for what makes a great executive leader, in my experience, there are three key qualities every CEO must have to take their company — regardless of industry, size or age — from good to great.
Leading a company is no different than leading a sports team. Every CEO needs to create the vision for the business; the vision that will excite and guide each employee. It’s this vision that will motivate them to do their best and make them feel part of something bigger.
While that vision may start off as a distant dream, it’s the cornerstone to innovation and direction. It serves to help every employee know your company goal and mission. CEOs should be able to define and communicate that vision to the entire team, whether it’s three employees or hundreds of employees.
When I first began my own business, I knew I wanted to make marketing accessible to business owners, small and big. After working for years with clients who were tired of working with multiple vendors and using multiple reporting tools and platforms, I had a crazy idea of creating an all-in-one marketing dashboard capable of providing a business owner a full snapshot of their marketing plan. Tired of using many third-party tools ourselves, we too wanted one tool that would help us provide customers full insight into the performance of their marketing campaigns.
That became our vision and mission: a fully transparent marketing all-in-one platform. At that point it sounded like a wish more than anything else, but it was something I felt strongly about and the team was excited about. The next question that came to mind was: “How in the world are we going to achieve this?”
You can’t be a great leader if you always see the glass half-empty. While there is nothing wrong with being realistic, a CEO needs to be an optimist at heart, turning non-believers into believers by the mere fact that they are so optimistic about the success of a new product, a new tool or the direction of the company.
As a leader, it’s that optimism — the belief that things will get better, things will work out — that motivates everyone to work hard, even when there are setbacks. Without optimism, your entire organization can unravel. Pessimism that starts at the top slowly trickles down and creates a fearful, unstable environment.
For my company, it was creating a yes-we-can attitude about our distant all-in-one marketing dashboard. I knew it was going to take a lot of planning, a lot of patience and a lot of money to create a tool that no one had really put together yet. The odds were stacked against us, but I had to motivate our team into believing that we could achieve our elusive dashboard. After all, if I did not believe that we could do it, no one else would either.
When the vision seems unattainable, you have to have the guts to move forward and not let fear hold you back. There are countless stories of entrepreneurs who gave up every last penny to start their business, executives who made the riskiest investment to get the company out of bankruptcy, and CEOs who made that merger or acquisition decision to save the company.
It’s this determination and courage that allows us to make some of the biggest and smartest decisions that catapult our companies from good to great. When faced with the realities of making my dream marketing dashboard come true, the financials, the timeframe and the commitment seemed too risky to make the endeavor worthwhile. If the whole thing failed, I would have spent thousands of dollars for nothing. But deep down I knew that this was something worth doing. So I marched onwards, hoping for the best.
Being in business is risky business. That means taking risks and making hard decisions — especially when everything and everyone is against you. Every great CEO began somewhere. No one is born a great leader. It’s these three qualities that we can’t forget, no matter how easy or hard things get. And it’s these same qualities that employees, investors and customers expect at every stage. Next time you’re stuck or facing a hard decision, remember that vision, optimism and guts might be just what your business needs to get to the next level.