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7 Traits of a great CEO

This is an excerpt from my new book, 'Workplace Culture & the NDIS' to be released later this year. In the course of my research for the book I found a single game changing ingredient that, if removed, led to internal cultural collapse. It was integrity of leadership. I believe this holds for any business in any sector.This is my own pick of the top characteristics of great CEOs. There are plenty of outstanding examples of these characteristics in the interviewees for this book:

  1. They are authentic, true to themselves and give others permission to be the same; they understand that people bring their whole selves to work, not just their work self.

  2. They live and breathe their organisation's values; they don’t just talk about them. They find ways to personally connect with employees in ways that reflect those values.

  3. They understand they need to be a listener and a learner. They ask questions of their customers, their ex-customers and every layer of their organisation. They know that regular face-to-face communication builds trust and understanding.

  4. They know that their competitors are not the benchmark for anything. They think strategically and focus on understanding their customer's changing needs better than anyone else. They value authentic co-design and seek to redefine the customer experience beyond any previous benchmark or accepted social norm.

  5. They are humble. They admit mistakes and they make it safe for others to explore new ideas, fail and learn. They create a culture where people are encouraged to question the way things are done and suggest improvements. They value transparency and accountability in all processes. They understand that complex environments require patience, persistence and diverse solutions; that sometimes ‘fast’ is slow.

  6. They want their employees to feel that their opinions matter, their work matters and that their personal values are a strong fit with the organisation’s culture.

  7. They understand that their employees want visible leadership around a clear vision and purpose. This means vision clarity, mission clarity and role clarity. They reward their employees for living the organisation’s values; they share and celebrate successes often.

It goes without saying that being a CEO in today's disability sector would challenge the leadership skills and commercial acumen of any CEO, regardless of their prior experience. (I'm sure there are things I should add to this list - let me know what you think!)

Visit to download two interviews from the new book (with Melinda Kubisa, CEO of Community Living Options and Michael Chester, Head of Service Operations at UnitingCare West)


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