Harvard Business Review’s Four Qualities of Top-Performing CEOs


If you thought integrity and a strong work ethic, you’d be wrong. (Actually, 100% of the low-performing CEOs were rated high for integrity and 97% had a strong work ethic.)

In a study published in the Harvard Business Review May-June 2017, researchers poured through a 10-year CEO Genome Study to track performance evaluations of 13,000 C-level executives, to include 2,000 CEOs, when compared with 30 management competencies. The authors are also releasing a book on the study entitled, The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders.

Of the highest-performing executives, here are the top four behaviors:

  1. Decisive: Those who were high performing were 12 times more likely to be described as deciding with speed and conviction.
  2. Engage with a results orientation: They don’t invest in being liked or in shielding the team from uncomfortable decisions, but these top-performers do build confidence with their team and have a “willingness” to engage in conflict.
  3. Adapt proactively: The highest-rated executives spent 50% of their time thinking about the future, compared with 30% for their peer group. They also measured very high for their ability to deal with setbacks.
  4. Consistent delivery: In what the researchers described as “…possibly the most powerful of the four essential CEO behaviors”, reliable production was key to executive selection. They set realistic expectations, go to work, and deliver every time.

Which of these qualities could you grow stronger in? Do any of these qualities conflict with how you see a top performer?

Link to HBR article.

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