CEOs seem to thrive in fast-paced, challenging environments

Wall Street bull
CEOs are driven by a range of motivators like success and plenty of energy.

Good CEOs seem to be a step ahead of the rest of us, driven, dynamic, staying ahead of the curve. It takes many attributes to accomplish all of this, but one hallmark is drive and another is energy.

“The best performing CEOs with the best results have the ability to get things done efficiently and with urgency,” said Dean Stamoulis, a managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates, which supplies guidance to boards on CEO selection. "They ignore the noise and focus on what is important to make things happen at a bottom line level.”

CEOs don’t let their egos get caught up, but they are competitive. They constantly learn and experience new and difficult challenges. In fact, they seek new challenges and are comfortable with risk and uncertainty.

A passion for impact

CEOs have a passion to have an impact and results. “In 10 minutes they cover more topics in depth and breadth than a conversation with any other manager,” Stamoulis said. “The focus is always on what’s next.”

Being with an executive search firm, Stamoulis sees the good and the bad. “If they describe their prior positions in the same way, that’s a red flag, because they see each position in the same way,” he said.

“When they have volunteered to learn from each position that is a good sign,” Stamoulis said. “A good CEO is thirsty and likely to lead a group through difficulties to real business results.”

The driving force that leads a CEO is “making an impact,” said Tom Axbey, CEO of CloudHealth Technologies. “CEOs want to impact a market by making their company's product the best of breed, impact their customers to use their product and make a difference in their business.”

Environment very important

They also strive to create a thriving environment where people want to be and know they are making an impact by their daily actions.

On the financial side, creating shareholder value is key, as is making the company a market leader, Axbey said.

Michael Connors, CEO of ISG, a technology research and advisory firm, says the drive must be instilled. “People in any organization respond to the CEO’s energy and pace. I have always moved at a fast pace and my teams have responded. A leader must set the tone.”

He recalls a mentor showing him the way. Fellow employees would ask Connors how he was doing and he would always respond, “Good.” When his boss heard him, he said a leader’s attitude rubs off on everyone around them. “He recommended that I always respond to that familiar question with energy and enthusiasm,” Connors said. “I’m not merely, ‘good, I’m, ‘doing fantastic,’ things are ‘outstanding.’ Passion goes a long way to motivating a good group.”