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 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, how do you measure up now that your business card reads CEO?

In today’s post, I’ll look beyond the title and at what it takes to become a truly great CEO…

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

In addition to having served as a CEO in four of my own ventures and 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 on 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. 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., rests 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. On the other end, they cannot or will not accept responsibility for anything.

The truly great CEOs clearly understand their role and are masters of execution. They realize their influence 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. Instead, the great CEOs focus on the following three 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 their primary role is to create the corporate vision and mission and use those to determine the appropriate corporate strategy. Great CEOs realize that few things are as crucial as unifying resources and actions with opportunities. Strategic decisioning must align 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 the culture to evolve by default over time. Instead, they engineer culture by design to support and foster an environment that will enable sustainable success. Great CEOs realize that it takes top talent to create successful companies. Absent the right corporate culture; you cannot attract or retain top talent. Great CEOs heavily influence culture by how they dress, what they say and to who they say it, and the positions they hold, and they keep making an obvious statement by which they will be judged and held accountable by the company.

Mission #3: Talent Management: Great CEOs focus on team building. They 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 know 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 accountable for goals, tactics, and processes. Great companies are focused, collaborative, and innovative, which only happens in an organization created and led by great CEOs.