So you’re the CEO…You’ve worked long and hard to climb the corporate ladder, or you bet the family farm and took the entrepreneurial risk of starting your own enterprise…either way, you’re intelligent, passionate, committed, experienced and ready to lead your company onward and upward.  Whether self-appointed or bestowed upon you, now that your business card reads CEO how do you really measure-up? In today’s post I’ll look beyond the title and take a look at what it takes to become a truly great CEO…

Let’s start out with the numbers…only about 1/1000 of 1% of the total worldwide workforce will ever become a CEO. Furthermore out of those that defy the odds and become the Chief Executive more than half of them will fail. Of those CEOs that succeed only a small percentage will be regarded as truly great CEOs. So why is it that so many of the best and brightest either fail or just endure as opposed to maximizing the tremendous opportunity afforded to them?

In addition to having served as a CEO in four of my own ventures as well as having also held that position in the corporate world, much of my career has been spent as a professional advisor assisting very successful executives and entrepreneurs in managing their careers. This experience has allowed me to form very solid opinions as to why a cross section of professionals with similar traits and characteristics can have such a variance in performance. My experience is that most CEOs do not possess a true understanding of their job description and of those that do many cannot adapt to perform as needed based upon unique or changing contextual, situational or environmental scenarios.

It is true that the proverbial buck stops with the CEO, and that the CEO is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a company. The final responsibility for operations, strategy, finance, branding, advertising, PR, marketing, corporate culture, HR, compliance, sales, etc. all rest with the CEO. Therein lies the main problem for most Chief Executives…While one person clearly cannot do it all, the CEO also cannot abdicate responsibility. On one end of the spectrum many CEOs either misunderstand the difference between ultimate responsibility and day-to-day responsibility, or on the other end of the spectrum they cannot or will not accept responsibility for anything.

The truly great CEOs clearly understand their role and are masters of execution. They realize the influence they possess and the powerful impact that their decisions and actions have both internally and externally. They neither take on too much responsibility nor do they ignore their responsibility. Rather the great CEOs focus their efforts on the following 3 key areas that create the most leverage and velocity.

Mission #1Vision…Successful CEOs set the tone for the company. A truly great CEO understands that his/her primary role is to create the corporate vision and mission and use those to determine the appropriate corporate strategy. Great CEO’s realize that few things are as important as unifying resources and actions with opportunities. Strategic decisioning must be aligned with vision and mission.

Mission #2: Culture…Great CEOs set the tone for corporate culture from the top-down. Successful Chief Executives do not allow culture to evolve by default over time, rather they engineer culture by design to support and foster an environment which will enable sustainable success. Great CEOs realize that it takes top talent to create successful companies, and absent the right corporate culture you cannot attract or retain top talent. Great CEOs heavily influence culture…Everything from how they dress, to what they say and who they say it to, to the positions they adopt as well as to the company they keep make a very visible statement by which they will be judged and held accountable.

Mission #3: Talent Management…Great CEOs focus on team building. They not only know how to attract and motivate top talent, but they understand how to deploy the talent in the most meaningful fashion by applying the best talent to the most significant opportunities. Great CEOs understand that they cannot do everything and therefore do everything possible to surround themselves with the best executive team possible.

The successful CEO understands that they are responsible for vision, mission, strategy, culture and talent management and that executives and management are responsible for goals, tactics and process. Great companies are focused, collaborative and innovative which only happens in an organization created and led by great CEOs.