What makes CEOs and Entrepreneurs different?

In the spirit of true confessions, my 25-plus years of boardroom experience were primarily in the role of the “corporate CEO.” Although much of that experience was working with my customers, true entrepreneurs. Most recently (last seven years) I’ve redefined myself as an independent businesses person or more commonly known as an entrepreneur. So I’ve had the opportunity to see what characteristics and the traits are common among people on both sides.

To be a successful entrepreneur you require ten (10) characteristics, with three (3) of them are absolutely critical to success.

  • Patient
  • Detailed
  • Resolute
  • Adaptable
  • Visionary
  • Courageous
  • Adventurous
  • Passionate
  • Saleable
  • Determined

Wow. That’s a big list. And three of these traits are what I consider “show stoppers,” (e.g.: if you don’t harness certain traits, you’ll never launch.)

First, you need to be resolute, or possess “emotional toughness”. Entrepreneurs are doomed if they fall into the snares of negativity around them. Rejection and naysayers are everywhere; people love to watch others fail. But you must rise above it. Therefore, doesn’t matter the nature of your business, you must be resolute.

Secondly, you must be passionate. Generally, prosperous entrepreneurs are successful because they’ve followed their passion. If the passion doesn’t exist, the challenge to stay focused will prevail. Passion drives the entrepreneur to success simply through emotion of seeing your ideas, your products or your services triumph.

Thirdly, you must master the art of selling. The successful entrepreneur is an extremely effective communicator and has a dominant personality trait of “saleable” (but not to be confused with a “sales person”.) Entrepreneurs gain support by being likeable, understanding and concise. You must channel this trait to effectively and enthusiastically communicate your passion; by infusing your vision with direction, you create your own medium for others to garner that very same passion.

The ten traits can be found individually in many people. However, when all ten traits are accumulated in one individual, you have the makings of a truly successful entrepreneur.

In comparison, the route of a CEO is generally much different. CEOs are leading someone else’s passion; they may be passionate about their company and role, but not nearly as much as the individual who pioneered it. So to be a successful corporate CEO you require these ten leadership traits:

1. Team Player (e.g.: encouraging and collaborative teamwork.)

2. Effective Communicator (e.g.: speak and act the vision of the organization that will illicit the same from employees.)

3. Recognize the Big Picture (e.g.: Aptitude for macro-managing, not micro-managing.)

4. Continual learner (e.g.: stay on top of industry trends specific to the company).

5. Be Intuitive (e.g.: build a foundation of strength, which creates the opportunity to stay focused on the primary role of the CEO.)

6. Be a True Leader (e.g.: customers are important but employees are most important.)

7. Be Accessible (e.g.: to everyone within the company; throw away org chart etiquette.)

8. Be resolute. (e.g.: when the vision is set, work to achieve it.)

9. Be Organized (e.g.: actively include balance in work & life.)

10. Operate with Integrity (e.g.: be honest, open and transparent.)

A couple of my favorites are number six and eight. I have worked for some great CEOs who have brilliant minds so deep and rich with knowledge that their mere presence exudes greatness. However, their level of intelligence could make it intimidating to be around them. They rarely interacted with employees who weren’t part of the leadership team; they didn’t walk the floor often and they contended that customers were most important to the company because they were responsible for revenue. But they were wrong; the most successful CEOs I’ve worked with know that the most important assets are employees. To ensure this was clear, they actively stayed grounded and in touch with all employees simply by walking the floors of their respective environments. To be a great leader you must be disciplined in how you approach work each day. Whether you’re an up and coming entrepreneur or an aspiring corporate CEO, leadership has key requirements that form the foundation of each of these traits. In whatever you do, use your passion and seek to be the best!

“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

-Vince Lombardi

© 2013-2014 R. Todd Millar. All rights reserved.

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