The myth of perfect CEOs


It often seems as though CEOs are expected to haves almost superhuman qualities and talents, unlike all the other "ordinary" employees.

Such a CEO myth cannot withstand practical testing - as highlighted by an interesting analysis from Hogan Assessments, a leading assessment provider.

Hogan's analysis begins with the question of what qualities and talents truly define CEOs.

And what CEO qualities are desirable from a corporate perspective?

According to Hogan Assessments, charisma is often assumed to be the most important attribute of CEOs - charisma is primarily associated with adjectives like confident, ambitious, and results-oriented.

However, individuals with such charisma often include narcissists, who are regularly found in executive positions in the business world, too.

But are narcissists in top positions truly advantageous for companies?

Egoism and aggressive risk-taking (both classic traits of narcissists) can wreak havoc in companies and thus have a negative impact.

For this reason, according to Hogan Assessments, a healthy humility would actually be desirable in CEOs.

With the fundamental attribute of humility, CEOs can also accept criticism positively, understand their own limitations, and positively support teamwork.

Humble CEOs also do not consider themselves irreplaceable. Therefore, they ensure early succession planning, especially as they are usually able to retain above-average employees very effectively.

Another crucial advantage of humble CEOs for companies is that they stay with the company longer than their excessively self-confident competitors, who are quicker to seek new challenges.

According to Hogan Assessments, it is often assumed that successful CEOs never fail.

In management practice, however, perceived infallibility is by no means a reliable indicator of long-term CEO success. Instead, the constructive and open handling of failures is crucial for successful CEOs.

Taking failures personally or even blaming others for them - both does not lead CEOs to sustainable success.

Only the reflective and self-critical handling of their own setbacks strengthens CEOs sustainably and enables them to see failures as opportunities for learning and growth, and to develop successful problem-solving strategies.

Another typical assumption about successful CEOs: strong CEOs make decisions alone.

Participative decision-making in top management is often equated with slower decision-making processes and unclear internal responsibilities.

On the contrary, however, studies show that companies with a multi-headed leadership team create significantly more value than solo decision-makers at the top of the company.

Furthermore, the image of strong, successful CEOs is associated with the belief that they never doubt themselves.

But also this assumption seems idealized.

Confidence and trust in one's own decisions are undoubtedly important for CEOs. However, an open approach to one's own doubts also has a positive effect in weighing options and making balanced decisions.

CEOs who do not critically question their own decisions out of excessive self-confidence quickly become a risk factor for companies (see the beginning of this article).

In its assessments, Hogan has identified four fundamental characteristics that distinguish the best CEOs:


  • Good judgment

  • Integrity

  • Credibility

  • Creating continual support in their environment

These four rather down-to-earth characteristics clearly refute the myth of superhuman CEOs.

In the context of these characteristics, Hogan Assessment recommends that CEOs dedicate ample time to fostering their own emotional and social intelligence and also seeking feedback from others for this purpose.

Through this process, they not only become aware of their weaknesses but also learn to manage and master these weaknesses.

And thus become sustainably successful CEOs.



Sincerely Yours

Mathias Friedrichs

Phone: +49 (0) 211 – 57 73 00




P.S.: For reasons of better readability of the contributions, the "male" formulation is chosen in each case.

However, all 3 genders are of course always addressed in the sense of equal treatment.


Source: „Perfekte CEOs braucht niemand“, Personalwirtschaft 02-2024