The Behavior of Successful CEOs

Who is the typical CEO?
Countless studies and articles have tried to pinpoint the CEO personality.
A recent Duke University study found that CEOs are more likely to be optimists and risk-takers than are members of the general population. According to New York Times columnist Adam Bryant, author of The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, CEOs are curious, confident, fearless team players who prefer simple, concise information. But how do these abstract characteristics translate into action? How do successful CEOs behave?
Here’s one thing studies tell us about those at the top: They are social—very social.
A joint study by professors at Harvard University, the London School of Economics, and the European University Institute found that CEOs spend 85% of their time working with other people – attending meetings, on the phone, or at work events – and only 15% of their time working alone. Of time spent with others, nearly half of that time included people outside of the CEO’s organization.
Whether by nature or nurture, CEOs are collaborative individuals.
As our world becomes increasingly interconnected – spurred on by the ever-expanding social media universe – it is clear that the collaborative nature of business is here to stay. A 2012 IBM study found that more than two-thirds of corporations plan to partner with other corporations this year – up from only slightly more than half in 2008, according to Forbes.
People used to talk about competition, about protecting industry secrets and shutting out competitors. Now we talk about cooperation and coordination, explains Jerry Rollins, Co-Founder of Sage Executive Group. “Coopetition’ is the new competition. CEOs who learn from other companies gain more knowledge than they ever could if they limited their interaction to their own firm alone,” he says.
So how can a busy CEO ensure his or her company is not functioning in a vacuum?

  • Read industry newsletters to keep abreast of industry trends.
  • Implement a social media strategy. Take note of other companies’ social media strategies in order to learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Do not underestimate the power of virtual and digital communication.
  • Join a CEO peer advisory group to gain the perspective of CEOs outside your organization.

While the personality traits of successful CEOs may vary, evidence suggests collaboration is one behavioral trait successful CEOs have in common.