By Fleur Hellemans

Becoming a CEO is one of the biggest transitions an executive can make in his or her career due to the complexity of the role and the skill that is required to successfully manage that complexity. So, what exactly do CEOs have that enable them to stand out from the rest?

According to DDI:

  • They obsess over execution and results
  • They have an ability to instantly and accurately size up complex business situations
  • They are fixated on customer needs

In addition to these traits CEOs are also intrinsically wired differently.

Research shows that CEOs are competitive, confident, and emotionally resilient.  They crave the attention and recognition that comes with being in a high profile role.  They also tend to be pragmatic operators or creative, conceptual strategists, but rarely both.   

So the big question is: how does one get to this level? In HBR’s article on “Making Yourself Indispensable”  the authors suggest that good leaders can become exceptional leaders by developing just a few of their key strengths to the highest level. “Raising just one competency to the level of outstanding can up your overall leadership effectiveness ranking from the bottom third to almost the top third”.

Building these strengths can be honed down to a simple 3-step process:

It all starts by knowing what you’re good at and where your strengths lie. Development is accelerated when accurate, in-depth assessment data is used to identify behaviours that can be applied to enhance performance. This is where psychometric assessments and/or a 360 can help.

Next is to choose a strength to focus on, according to its importance to the organisation and how passionately you feel about it. The former is relatively easy to assess, the latter is a little more difficult. It’s best to focus on a strength that you can see yourself developing; one that you will enjoy developing and can devote some time to.

Once you’ve identified the strength to develop, step 3 is to decide on specific developmental activities.  For example, a formal training/development programme may target the skill or behaviour, stretch assignments expand current responsibilities and provide an opportunity to develop strengths, or you may choose to engage a mentor or coach to support you in developing the strength further.

Not everybody wants to be a CEO, but with a little focus on developing a few key strengths, those who aspire to such a position can begin to pave their way.


Fleur Hellemans is a Senior Assessment Consultant at Sheffield South Island. She is an organisational and people development specialist with experience in designing and delivering global learning and development programmes and facilitating a broad range of training interventions. She has expertise in leadership assessment and development including psychometric assessment for selection and development, 360˚ assessment, assessment centres, and emotional intelligence. Her experience includes a range of assessment and development tools including:

  • Saville assessment suite
    -Hogan Assessment Systems
  • CEB (SHL talent measurement)
    - Myers Briggs Type Indicator
    - Baron EQ-i/EQ-360
    - Strengthscope
    - DDI Accredited Targeted Selection
    - DDI Accredited Facilitator of DDI Training programmes

Fleur can be reached at

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