11 Characteristics of a Great Startup CEO

Nowadays, it seems like with an innovative idea and a quick LinkedIn update, anyone can transform themselves into a CEO. Having the next brilliant idea for a product or a service however is just one, very small step on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur. The real work comes when you want to turn that idea into something that not only benefits customers, but also guarantees the long-term stability and success of your company.

We spoke to a number of entrepreneurs and asked what the most important characteristics of a great startup CEO are. Here’s what they had to say.

Startup founders and CEOs
photo credit: Heisenberg Media

1. Have a Vision

He or she has to have a clear vision, and the ability to articulate that vision regularly and in any setting. Whether its in the office, over dinner, at a company meeting or during a presentation. Anywhere, any time. Honesty and transparency with employees is also important, as is flexibility with employee wishes. Makes everyone feel like a true contributor to the company’s progress and success.

Paul Ruderman, Updatezen

2. Hire Top Talent

The ability to actively and consistently recruit top talent. It’s important to hire slowly and fire quickly. Also important is the ability to develop and communicate the company’s vision. A CEO must be willing to take risks, change quickly and not be afraid to fail.

Dan Daugherty, Remotely

3. Be Honest With Yourself

I’m still in the process of learning this, but it’s important to be self-aware and know what you are and what you aren’t. Equally important is calling attention to focus, and articulating what the company’s priority is.

Preet Anand, Bluelight

4. Set Clear Goals

A great startup CEO needs to attract and identify great talent, and provide a strong vision that keeps everyone excited and motivated about the work they are doing. The CEO should ensure that clear goals are established throughout the organization, so that people are laser focused on their next milestone.

Brandon Evans, Lifehack Labs

5. Stay Involved

With startups, CEO should stand for “Chief Everything Officer,” which is what I consider myself. Its naturally expected for a startup CEO to be involved in all business operations, although being an expert in each isn’t a requirement. If the CEO is willing to learn new aspects of the business on daily basis, and communicate them well to the team, it will lead to great progress and crucial growth.

Muneeb Mushtaq, AskforTask

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

In my humble opinion, a great startup CEO has to be someone who is not afraid of failure, and who is not afraid to stay focused until the venture is a known success.

Khuram Jehanzeb, Veelist

7. Willing to Take Risks

A great CEO should be a calculated risk taker. That means being optimistic, adaptable, and able to communicate their vision effectively.

Ian Naylor, App Institute

8. Execute Ideas

You have to be an executor! You have to be a go-getter! The more you execute, the more your team feels compelled to do the same. That is why “a little less conversation, and a little more action” should be your main philosophy. You have to lead by example, and getting things done is the best example you can set for your team.

John Kagit, Socialeyes

9. Select the Right Team

In any startup, challenges are numerous and daunting throughout early stages. Keeping staff motivated, constantly involved, and updated on business goals is critical to maintain productivity. Successful CEOs are essentially problem solvers, using strategy and communication both internally and for their customers. The CEO must be able to select the best possible team to ensure that overall strategy and goals are reached. Without a good team surrounding the CEO, the business will ultimately flounder.

Robert Sturt, Network Union

10. Always Find a Way

A ‘find a way, or make one’ attitude is key for any startup CEO and the entire staff. After that, it’s all about information, knowing, strategy, storing telling and most importantly, decision making. Ben Horowitz shows the way in a post called “How Andreessen Horowitz Evaluates CEOs”. I re-read it often. You should too.

Tom Triscari, Yieldr

11. Resiliency

The single most important characteristic of a great startup CEO is resiliency. Launching a startup venture is a long, hard road, with lots of peaks and valleys. Investors will tell you it takes three to five years to launch a startup, but in reality it’s more like seven to 10 years. Great founders have to have deep reserves of intrinsic motivation and toughness that keeps them fighting through each stage of the startup lifecycle.

Kevin Holmes, Founders Network