What to Look for in a CEO?


There are many factors that play a role in determining whether or not a company becomes successful. A company’s business plan, it’s the market size and share, the quality of its products and services, as well as its management team and employees all play a role in how successful a company becomes. However, the person a company chooses to lead its business is often the most significant factor in determining success. In fact, when I spoke with Gold State Warriors owner Joe Lacob recently he said regarding who a company chooses as its CEO: “At the end of the day it’s the single most important thing. It tells you whether a company is going to be successful more than anything else.” So there’s no question that getting the right CEO in place is extremely important. However, not everyone knows what to look for in a CEO. So what kinds of qualities and attributes should you look for when you’re making such an important decision; when you’re selecting someone to run your company?

Finding the Right Leader

I asked this question to Dixon Doll when we met together recently and he explained the approach he takes and what kinds of attributes he looks for when it comes to selecting a CEO. Dixon has helped guide and influence executives, investors and entrepreneurs in several industries for more than 35 years and he has received several prestigious honors and awards for his work, including being named to the Forbes Midas List for four consecutive years. Dixon also received the 2013 Special Achievement Award in VC from the International Business Forum.

Many Important Attributes Required

So what does Dixon look for? First and foremost, Dixon told me that he likes to meet people that are grounded in reality. It’s great to have visions of success, but those need to be based on reality and not just hopes and dreams. He said he also likes people who have a passion for winning. Dixon then named several other attributes he looks for in a CEO but noted that these attributes don’t necessarily have an order of importance. He said a good CEO needs to also have all of these attributes, which include high integrity and character.

Vision Is Another Key to Success

Lastly, Dixon told me that he also likes to see someone that is “very self-confident, maybe even a little cocky, but not arrogant.” Again he reiterated that a good CEO must be grounded in reality. He also said that in addition to having a passion for winning he looks for someone “who has a vision on where they want to take the company” and a vision of “how they’re going to be successful in all the things they need to do with the help of the investors, board members and employees to go out there and really create lasting enterprise value.”

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Bill Evans