5 CEO Attributes You Need to Develop

Everyone in business wants to be successful. One way to make sure you’re on the right path to success is to look at the lives of other successful people, and then do what they do.

Here are some success-creating habits that CEOs and successful entrepreneurs live by.

1. Lifelong Learning

Successful people never stop learning. Even after you reach your goals and achieve amazing business accomplishments, never be too proud to learn.

Many CEOs are dedicated to lifelong learning.

Reading Habits

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, reads 50 books annually; about one book per week.

He and his wife, Melinda, are dedicated to universally accessible learning. They established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which promotes academic growth, globalized care, and outreach.

Postsecondary Success focuses efforts on all learning, how to finance it, and how to become successful students before, during, and after a postgraduate career.

While their efforts are impressive, Bill and Melinda aren’t the alone in maintaining lifetime learning.

Businessman and investment tycoon Mark Cuban reads each day because he has found that it is useful in his business practices. Even household names, like Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey, promote healthy reading habits.

Maintaining ongoing reading practices and self-improvement through self-education are not just good habits – they’re a fundamental asset to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Sharing and Learning Through Teaching

While it isn’t commonly spoken of, many successful CEOs teach. You really learn something when you teach. Also, CEOs get the benefit of spending time with the next generation of students and leaders in their field.

Michael Crooke, former CEO of Patagonia, spends his time as a visiting professor in the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.

His M.B.A. course promotes sustainable business practices in hopes of inspiring his students to go against the traditional business model in pursuit of a new, sustainable, and competitive business model. Crooke also recognizes that when he teaches, he’s not the only one learning. He feels that his students teach him.

Those who have joined this practice of teaching younger generations of possible CEOs include John Allison (CEO of BB&T), Neil Braun (CEO of Viacom Entertainment), Bill George (former CEO of Medtronic), and dozens more.

Seeking Knowledge

Reading and teaching aren’t the only routes taken by successful CEOs.

George Zlatin, co-founder of Digital Third Coast, keeps a habit of listening to self-improvement audio books. Michael Bruch, CEO of Willow, spends an hour or two each day on Twitter in order to gather updates on technology news and developments. Even Lydia Gilbert, CEO of Dia&Co., takes the time to learn from other great leaders on YouTube talks and podcasts.

While all of these individuals are already successful, they keep learning.

2. Keep it Simple

As a business owner you have a full plate, and it can be difficult to back away from the daily grind and pursue your business vision. Many CEOs achieve mindfulness by simplifying their daily routines.

Make Lists

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, doesn’t take his to-do list home with him. Instead, he writes his top three tasks of the next day, and leaves the list on his desk to return to in the morning. That way, he knows what needs to be done first without worrying about it at home.

Benjamin Franklin allotted three hours each morning to answering the question: “What good shall I do today?”

Leave Work at Work

Mark Fachler, CEO of Veestro, believes that work should be kept outside of the bedroom. This work-free space is a “sanctuary,” and should be kept stress-free and separate from your working environment.

According to Fachler, this method of reducing stress leads to higher work efficiency (not to mention a happier marital life).

Be Timely

It’s one thing to be stressed over work duties – it’s another to be stressed and late for an important company meeting. CEOs are leaders. You should exhibit strong leadership through punctuality. Being on time doesn’t only help you to minimize your stress, but it can increase productivity and the efficiency of staff when you show your dedication to what you do.

Respect for what you do and those that you work for repays you by minimizing additional stress and workplace tensions. It’s a simple way to maintain workplace productivity and keep your schedule running smoothly.

Simplifying the Wardrobe

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, stands alongside Steve Jobs (former CEO of Apple) in his affinity for keeping a simple wardrobe. These iconic businessmen are known for their consistent apparel and daily attire that is consistent from day to day.

However, CEOs aren’t the only ones who dress minimally for business. President Barack Obama has spoken about his repetitive gray and blue wardrobe, stating: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Saving the time (and energy) deciding what to wear is a common practice many successful businessmen and women.

3. Staying Healthy

Health of mind and body are keys to creating a successful life and business. Many CEOs make a monumental effort to stay healthy.

Mental Breaks from the Workday

Dan Hogan, founder and CEO of Medalogix, turns to building blocks and a game of catch when he’s feeling blocked and overwhelmed. Brief mental breaks during the workday allow him to recuperate and get back on track with business.

Charlie Silver, CEO of Algebraix Data, believes in clearing his head of business by taking a brief, quiet walk before bed. This practice promotes clarity, while helping him to prioritize for the next day.

Physical Exercise and Health Practices

Steve Jobs was known for his minimalist eating habits. Michael McDevitt, CEO of Terra’s Kitchen, maintains his health in life and business by starting each day consistently with a healthy breakfast.

Hannibal Baldwin, CEO of SiteZeus, believes in daily exercise in order to maintain overall health and well-being. Baldwin claims that “it has played a critical role in my daily attitude, work potential, and outlook on life.”

CEOs on average are more likely to participate in marathons and triathlons than the general population.

4. Goal Habits

Research shows that leaders take time out to ponder and reflect.

The ability to document and deconstruct ideas enables creativity and development. Taking a few moments each day to record your thoughts and ideas allows you to revisit them with deeper insight another time, when you may be better equipped to address those thoughts.

Planning & Ideas

Daniel Nyiri, owner of 4U-Fitness, makes time each day to journal his day outside of his pre-set business appointments. Planning each day in advance allows Nyiri to have a better sense of what his days will be like, which leaves plenty of time for preparation in order to be at his most productive.

He doesn’t just keep a journal of his daily “to-do’s” and work ideas – he highly recommends the practice to anyone looking to get ahead.

Erin Stair, MD, MPH keeps a habit of writing down her ideas each night during a bath – her “relaxation time.” As Erin stated about her somewhat unusual habit: “Any thoughts worth keeping, I write them down immediately, and carefully, so I don’t get the notebook wet. It’s how I literally capture creativity while it’s happening.”


According to Forbes, a recurring attribute of successful business starts with a journaling habit. However, rather than journaling to record or expand an idea, this practice addresses recording daily on-goings in a “job journal”.

In this journal, you should record your daily achievements: acknowledging your business strengths, assessing your plans for weaknesses, recording progress and setbacks, establishing new approaches – whatever you find is important to document about the project.

These notes allow you to remain critical of your work. Reflective criticism allows you to continue evolving better business practices.

Is there a more efficient way of doing something?

Write it down.

Is there something you’ve missed?

Write that down, too.

All of your reflections concerning on-going projects are valuable to your progress.

5. Get Vision

As the head of any company, your ideas, aspirations, and goals should extend far beyond your current business. Remember, your career is limited only by your imagination and effort.

All the successful CEOs, and the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with, have more than one pan in the fire. This may seem crazy if you haven’t yet started a business, but first businesses often don’t work out. It’s the lessons you learn each time you start a business that will help you achieve success.

So set out to do more than just start and run one business.

Think bigger than your business.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, began his business through experimental ventures. Beginning with Wirehog – a “peer-to-peer” file sharing server – Zuckerberg developed his business model into the Facebook Platform, Beacon, and Connect. During his time developing all of the applications within the Facebook project, he also began, seeking to provide internet to those who were not connected before the launch of Facebook.

His goal?

Creating new jobs in a market he was pioneering, while maintaining total “net neutrality.” In other words, Zuckerberg didn’t seek to own the internet – he sought to expand its reach.

As a CEO, thinking locally will provide limited expansion to your business. However, thinking globally will provide growth, success, and the ability to expand your business as well as future ventures.


As I’ve learned about these and other CEO habits I’ve tried to cultivate them. If the successful consistently do certain things, it stands to reason that doing what they do will help you achieve success too.

What are some other habits you’ve noticed in the successful entrepreneurs you know? What habits have you set out develop?