How to Find a CEO for Your Startup


December 26, 2019

How to Find a CEO for Your Startup

Is your business looking for a visionary leader to take it to the next level?

Finding a CEO who fits the shoes of a growing company is no mean feat. The CEO controls a business’ most significant moves and accounts for 45% of overall performance.

While the label ‘CEO’ is often glamorised with sharp suits, flash cars, and million-dollar paychecks, the reality of sitting on the top spot isn’t for the faint-hearted.

A recent report by McKinsey explores the mindsets and practices of the best CEOs to understand what it takes to lead a startup to success.

Join us as we dive into McKinsey’s report to pinpoint the key characteristics of a successful CEO and offer our own advice to help your startup find an influential leader.

What Is a CEO?

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive in an organisation. As the most powerful and influential individual, the CEO is responsible for setting a clear line of attack and guiding businesses on their journeys to success.

A company’s board of directors and shareholders elects a CEO to manage the overall operations. He or she will also serve as the public face of the business.

Whether it’s setting clear strategies, shaping company culture, or building great teams, the CEO is the brains behind the entire operation.

When finding a CEO for a startup, look for individuals with a cocktail of complementary skills and experiences, which can give your business a competitive edge over its rivals.

Expectations vs Reality

Did you know that just three in five newly appointed CEOs live up to expectations in their first 18 months on the job?

While many individuals appear to have all the ingredients to become a successful CEO, very few hit the mark when the going gets tough. The stresses and demands of the role aren’t for everyone.

So, what separates someone who looks good on paper from an individual who can lead a business to the lofty heights of Facebook, Tesla, or Netflix?

Habits of Successful CEOs

If you’ve read any good leadership books like Brendon Burchard’s High-Performance Habits or Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, you’ll have an idea of the kind of sacrifices and lifestyle choices a CEO must make to reach the top.

The 2019 McKinsey report describes a “model for CEO excellence” which breaks the role into 6 defining elements and identifies18 key CEO characteristics and responsibilities.How to Find a CEO for Your Startup

How to Find a CEO for Your Startup

Balancing this cocktail of responsibilities requires a unique set of CEO traits and habits.

To help your startup find the cream of the crop, we’ve selected what we believe to be the most important characteristics to take your business to the next level.

1. Successful CEOs Ask Questions

Possibly the most essential characteristic of great CEOs is curiosity. If someone is interested in the world and curious to find answers to problems, then they’re halfway towards becoming a successful CEO.

If we look at the most influential leaders in business, they all share a similar passion for change and a curiosity to learn.

Elon Musk’s fascination for extraterrestrial exploitation and Bill Gates’ love for computer coding were both fundamental components to their success. Without their continued desire to learn and discover, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

The 2019 Netflix Original Inside Bill’s Brain takes a trip inside the mind of Bill Gates to understand the way his curiosity for the world continues to fuel his extraordinary success.

There’s never a dull moment for Bill as he constantly looks for new answers to some of the world’s most challenging problems.

2. CEO Exercise Habits Are Vital

Staying fit and healthy as a CEO is vital. Not only does regular exercise promote energy-boosting endorphins in the brain, but it also helps to fight off illness.

As the leader of a company, you can’t afford to take extended periods of sick leave.

The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, makes $20 million a year. If he takes a single day off work, it’s estimated that it would cost his company a staggering $54,700.

Going for a short run each morning or squeezing gym sessions into your lunch breaks is a quick and straightforward way to stay healthy and avoid costly drops in productivity.

3. Early Mornings

When you’re responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of people, time is incredibly precious.

Successful CEOs will make the most of every second in a day by waking up early and getting to work while the rest of the world is snoozing.

YouTube star, Casey Neistat explains everything you need to know about getting ahead of the pack in a hilarious 27-second video.

“Life is like going the wrong way on a moving walkway. Stand still, and you go backwards. Walk, and you stay put. To get ahead, you have to hustle.”

If CEOs don’t seize the day and make the most of every moment, they’ll find their business stands still, or worse yet, falls into decline. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, reportedly goes to sleep at 9:30 pm each night to get his 7 hours before waking up at 4:30 am every morning.

4. Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

The early mornings are made possible by a good night’s sleep. Many of the world’s leading CEOs say a strict bedroom ban on mobile devices helps them get the rest they need.

Blue light from electronic screens can block sleep-promoting neurons in the brain and reduce the amount of melatonin we release. Melatonin is an important hormone which gives the illusion of tiredness and tells our body to get some sleep.

Digital media tycoon Arianna Huffington describes her bedroom as a device-free zone to avoid the effect of blue light on her sleep patterns. She wakes up each day feeling energised and ready to take on the world.

Find the Right Fit For Your Startup

When looking for the right CEO for your small business, remember to put company culture first.

It’s essential to find a CEO who gels with your people and shares the same core values. Longtime leader at McKinsey Marvin Bower, considered the CEO’s job so specialised that the only way to prepare for the position is to experience it first-hand.

Someone could look like the perfect candidate on paper, but you won’t know for sure until you’ve seen their true colours shine through.

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