5 Essential Leadership Skills for CEOs

As the CEO of your company, you have a lot of responsibilities. You must manage your employees, clients, partners, and sometimes your competitors - along with your products, sales, etc. It may seem like a lot to ask of an individual, and it is. Your position requires strong leadership skills above all others. Here are five skills that will help you guide your business in the right direction.

1. Executive Presence

A company leader stands in front of an open floor to make an announcementExecutive coaches often say that people should notice when you enter a room. What does that mean, exactly? It means that you should have a clear sense of purpose in mind, and express that in how you do things. Walk and talk the same way - with purpose. Literally - stand tall, communicate with purpose, and focus on the task at hand. After all, if you don’t sound interested in the things you say, people won’t listen.

Remember - you aren’t just the CEO, you’re the face (and often the voice) of your company. Hold your head high, lift up your chin and most of all, be friendly. You should be a role model for your employees. If you take pride in the company you own, show it to others by carrying yourself with class and poise.

For example: Challenge yourself to not break eye contact when talking to people. Be sure not to stare, just politely give your full attention to the people you talk to. Try to resist the urge to check your watch, look at your phone, or avert your eyes in order to scan for more ‘important’ people.

2. Confidence

Confidence is walking into a meeting with a prospect and knowing you’re going to close a sale. But it isn’t just a feeling, it’s how you present yourself to the world. For example, speaking clearly and slowly is a sign that you are confident in what you are saying. Your presence and confidence go hand in hand. Take them with you everywhere. If a prospect sees how confident you are, they’ll be more likely to make a deal.

This applies to employees as well. By showing your confidence in them, they’ll pick it up themselves. Confident employees are very valuable assets in your company - and you can strengthen their confidence by demonstrating it in your leadership.

3. Communication

Being social is one of the best things you can do as the CEO of your business. Master the art of networking and use that skill everywhere you go. Become comfortable with talking to strangers and striking up conversations with people you don’t know.

Leadership communication skills are rooted in confidence. As mentioned above, the way you communicate - using verbal and body language - is impacted by how confident you are. Your communication skills as CEO are important not only for networking purposes, but for public speaking engagements or events. Which is to say that as a CEO, you should be doing public speaking and presenting regularly.

It’s important to communicate with your employees as well. Make sure that they’re comfortable speaking to you and asking questions. They should have respect for you as their boss, but shouldn’t be afraid to talk to you one-to-one. Many of the most successful executives practice networking with their employees and engender a culture of confidence as a result. Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels used to carry a pen and note cards when he visited hotels, and he would carefully write down the names and suggestions of every employee he met - from the general manager to the housekeepers.

To practice effective communication, make it a goal to get involved in local networking groups and commit to networking events and speaking/presentation engagements as top priorities. Also, if you struggle with public speaking, consider joining a Toastmasters chapter in your area, where you can practice these skills diligently.

4. Drive and Direction

If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you expect to get anywhere? Set goals for your business and work towards them with everything you’ve got.

Make sure your employees understand the vision you have. Not only will this aid them in executing projects the way you’d like them to be done, it may also instill a vision in them. If your employees share your vision, it'll give them a sense of direction and stronger responsibility. It’s important for your employees to understand how important they are as part of your company.

For example, plan to get your employees together once or twice a year to discuss the visions they have for the future of the company. Allow employees to talk about where they’d like to be in their careers and discuss how their work in your company can help them get there. This will effectively align your vision and that of your employees in a singular direction.

5. Trustworthiness

If you don’t trust your employees, they don’t have much reason to trust you. Trust and honesty are critical factors in a successful workplace. However, make sure to keep a balance in your trust. Don’t be over-trusting - this will make it much easier for people to take advantage of you. But don’t be under-trusting either - as mentioned earlier, no one will trust you in return. To find the balance, consider that part of being trustworthy is keeping appropriate confidences, and at the same time, not hiding the reality of factors that impact your business. One good model for building trust and transparency in a business is Open-Book Management, first developed by Jack Stack, CEO of SRC Holdings.

One good way to instill trust is to schedule staff meetings once a month and encourage your employees to bring up any issues or concerns. Many CEOs claim to have an ‘open-door policy’, but by making time for it, you set yourself apart and create confidence.

If you implement these five leadership skills into your business, you’ll be ahead of your competitors while also functioning as a much more effective CEO. Whether it be the way you present yourself to customers, the way you interact with your employees, or how much trust you have in your business partners, everything you do is affected by your leadership skills.

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