Every day, there seems to be a new article breaking down what makes a great CEO. Whether it’s a general piece or something related to Steve Jobs, the articles often focus on what makes these executives unique, not the winning characteristics they all share.
It’s no secret that being a CEO requires setting the overall vision of the company, hiring great talent and ensuring there’s money in the bank — but without certain complementary traits, it would be difficult to run businesses that succeed. If you’re an aspiring leader in tech, here are the six characteristics I’ve noticed among the most effective CEOs in the industry.
1. They have a defined strategy.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many tech CEOs don’t have a truly defined strategy — or a clear cut goal — for the business. It’s not easy, especially for tech startups, but if you set your plan high and allow for movement, your strategy will almost certainly change and evolve over time. Everyone in the company needs to know what you’re trying to accomplish.
2. They build culture from the ground up.
In bigger businesses and different industries, leaders take a step back from the day-to-day processes. They stay in their offices, talk to the board and investors, and plan from above.
Tech CEOs, especially during the early stages of a company, need to help build culture from the ground up. That means getting involved with employee activities, spearheading office events and making sure you take time to get to know everyone. What motivates them? What are their personal goals? Knowing the whole person of each individual will strengthen the company culture and help retain — and nurture — talent.
3. They hire the right people, not the right people for right now.
When you’re trying to scale a business, it’s tempting to hire the first people who show up with the right skill sets. But if those employees aren’t invested in the company’s direction long-term, the cracks will start to show sooner rather than later, and you’ll be back to the hiring drawing board.
Know the difference between the right people and the right people for right now. If you’re trying to build a great business that lasts, you need to think about what kind of employees the company needs in five or 10 years, not for just the end of a quarter or the next board meeting.
4. They know when to let go.
A good leader doesn’t just hire the right people, they keep the right team in place and sometimes have to make tough decisions. That could mean scrapping a product, shifting priorities or letting go of a team member.
Tech CEOs have to constantly evaluate what does and doesn’t align with the company’s direction. If something doesn’t seem like a good fit, you’ll often know right away. Address it early.
5. They empower the team to make decisions.
In the tech ecosystem, there are a lot of talented people with different opinions. It’s easy to spend all day listening to opinions without actually making movement on anything. But your job is to make your team successful.
Input, not consensus — it’s a concept I learned from Scott Kurnit, founder of About.com. A good CEO knows how to empower team leaders to make the final decision. That means establishing ownership and making sure that everyone knows their role.
6. They love the product.
The most important characteristic of a tech CEO is a deep, unwavering dedication to the product. CEOs should lead the company in being passionate about what they are selling or trying to achieve. You’re the one who creates that energy not only in the company, but in the market. Without passion, you won’t be able to convince investors that you have what it takes to grow the business or persuade customers that your product is right for them.