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10 Skills Your New CEO Has To Have

When you’re looking to hire a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), you need to make sure you’re getting the right person. A top CEO isn’t a one trick pony. 

Manning the helm is a big task, so the best CEO for your business will have to have a wide range of skills at their disposal. But what specific CEO skills and traits should you be looking for in the future leader of your business?

Of course, many of the exact skills you’ll be looking for will be tailored to your industry. However the best leaders have excellent business acumen and transferable skills which allow them to excel in leadership roles regardless of sector or industry. These are often the most important skills for a CEO to possess.

In our experience, there are ten key skills you should be looking for in the hunt for a new CEO.

1. Decision-Making Skills

One of the most important responsibilities of the CEO role is making key decisions, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Top CEOs know how to stand firm and not shy away when it comes to making these big decisions. They make the necessary calculations and come to justifiable decisions without hesitation.

Your new CEO should be reliable - you should be able to trust them to not make questionable decisions. Importantly, they need to be able to acquire, value, and process the input from all relevant stakeholders when coming to conclusions, whilst not being too easily swayed. The ability to listen to and value outside input, as well as understand that trade-offs are often necessary, is vital for a successful CEO. It’s a fine balance, but one that’s necessary when making key business-critical decisions.


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2. Market-Analysis Skills

To ability to analyse the current market is essential for a successful CEO. This includes the ability to pinpoint trends and adjust the business strategy accordingly. The market is constantly changing and new trends frequently emerge, so your CEO needs to be able to adapt to these changes and think proactively to stay ahead of the curve.

Your new CEO should have an excellent knowledge of the current market and economy, both in general and specific to your industry. They should be aware of competitors’ activity at all times.


3. Leadership Skills and Confidence

It’s absolutely vital that your new CEO has full confidence in their own abilities and in the abilities of those around them. Your CEO needs to act as a confident, reliable leader, always acting in the best interests of the company and employees. The senior management of your business needs someone leading them who they know they can turn to. Employees aren’t just looking for a boss, they’re looking for a leader.

You need someone who can lead from the top, but who’s also not afraid to get their hands dirty and motivate employees to achieve their very best. They need to ensure employees throughout the organisation will feel engaged in their work and motivated to achieve their goals. 

CEO skills


4. Transparency

Transparency is key to improving company morale and productivity. Your new CEO should be willing to be clear with other members of the business regarding any changes or developments. This doesn’t mean they should be publicising everything, but reasonable transparency goes a long way in maintaining morale with employees. It provides everyone with confidence in where the business is heading and that the company is in safe hands.


5. Communication Skills

Communication is critical to success. This is especially true in senior leadership roles. One of the key skills of a CEO is being able to communicate clearly at all times regardless of who you’re communicating to or what topic you’re covering.

This includes all forms of communication, so not just when speaking in person or presenting, but also when sending emails and making phone calls. Great communication leads to a more informed management team and a more streamlined business strategy.

A CEO who can’t effectively communicate with all members of their business, whether they’re senior management or admin staff, will struggle to be seen as an effective and motivational leader. 


6. Sector-Dependant Technological Ability and Awareness

The CEO skills required from your new leader will depend on the type of business you're running. As such, you should ideally be looking for CEO candidates with extensive experience in your specific sector and a deep knowledge of it.

The CEO of today needs to be able to keep up with the latest industry trends and practices. This means being abreast of the technology aspects within your industry and having hands-on experience in using and interacting with this technology.

You want a CEO who can stay on top of the market and who’s ready to implement the best new technology and software to deliver the highest-quality service and stay ahead of the competition. At the same time, the ideal CEO will know how to filter their knowledge of new industry technology trends. They’ll know how to identify game-changers and avoid fleeting buzzwords and concepts that add no value to your business. 


7. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Succeeding in the role of CEO is far from easy. The chances are your new CEO will encounter new problems and challenges on a daily basis. As such, it’s essential that the candidate you choose possesses exceptional problem-solving skills. They should also possess the ability to think critically about every decision and face challenges head-on in a timely manner. This means weighing up all the potential pros and cons of a solution and factoring in how they can minimise any negative consequences for themselves, the business, and their employees. 

Skills of a CEO


8. Short and Long-Term Risk Evaluation Skills

Taking risks is par for the course for business leaders, so you need to make sure the leader you appoint can take a sensible approach to big decisions. Risk evaluation is more than just a solo task though, so your new CEO should have the right skill set to evaluate risks themselves as well as take outside input into consideration in their decision.

When evaluating potential risks, your CEO should be able to think of both the short and long-term consequences. They should have the ability to identify whether certain decisions will result in long-term benefits even if there are more immediate drawbacks.

The key is taking calculated risks and thinking outside of the box to stay ahead of competitors. 


9. Talent-Identification Skills

The very best like to work with like-minded people. One of the key skills of a CEO is the ability to identify and surround themselves with the best talent. To quote a cliche, quality CEOs understand that there’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’ - they know that to find success, they need to work with a high quality senior management team.

They should be able to identify top senior talent and qualify whether they’re the right fit for the business based on their skills, experience, and personality. The CEOs who succeed at this understand that personality, attitude, and culture fit are often equally as important as skills and experience in their senior management team.


10. Management Training and Mentoring Skills

A CEO’s job is to act in the best interests of the business and its staff. As such, your new CEO should be enthusiastic about improving the skillsets of their management team for the benefit of the company as a whole.

The best CEOs think to the future of the company. They take the time to monitor their management team and nurture their development using their own experience. CEOs who show empathy for their staff and genuinely look out for them and their development will help boost morale in your business and embody a culture of individual growth and improvement.


How To Find The Perfect CEO? 

Finding a candidate who possesses all of these CEO skills can be challenging, but it’s certainly possible. Often the best CEOs aren’t actively looking for new opportunities, so they need to be proactively targeted and approached.

The best way to do this is through engaging a good headhunter. They will search the market for the perfect candidate suited to your organisation and approach them on your behalf to establish their interest.

If you’re in need of a headhunter to help you find a perfect CEO with all the right skills, at Executive Headhunters EMA Partners we’d be happy to help. Give us a call on 0161 926 8686 or email us at

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