What Type of Small Business CEO Are You?

by Ben Gran

One of the challenges of being a successful small business owner is figuring out how to adapt your style of leadership to the needs of your company. There is no one single “right way" to be a small business CEO: Different personality types and leadership styles have different strengths and weaknesses, and lots of different leadership styles can be successful so long as you are being authentic to yourself and supporting the growth of your organization.

Here are a few common personality types of small business CEOs. Which ones remind you of yourself?

Charismatic CEO

This CEO is the public face of the company and is great at building relationships and becoming a thought leader in the industry. If you love to speak at industry conferences, you might be a charismatic CEO. One risk of this type of leadership is that charismatic CEOs sometimes get so enamored with their public performance that they might neglect the details of running the company.

Charismatic CEOs need to get out in public as often as possible to be the chief salespeople for their companies. As a charismatic CEO you also need to make sure to delegate back-office and day-to-day operational duties to effective lieutenants who excel in those roles and who can complement your strengths.

Visionary CEO

This CEO is great at working behind the scenes — developing new products and bringing a sense of inventiveness to the company. Visionary CEOs tend to have high standards and are uncompromising; they're not always the easiest people to work for, but they get great results.

Visionary CEOs need to balance their results orientation and their creative genius with a healthy dose of humility and consensus-building. No one person should be bigger than the company; the ultimate goal is building a team and not just a legacy.

Risk-Conscious CEO

This CEO tends to be highly focused on managing risks and avoiding problems — they tend to be particularly skilled in handling compliance, accounting, and legal issues. The challenge of this type of leadership comes when the risk-conscious CEO becomes overly risk-averse — to the point that they fail to seize promising opportunities for their businesses.

Risk-conscious CEOs need to look for ways to surround themselves with people who have diverse opinions and varying appetites for risk. As a risk-conscious CEO, you must be prepared to trust in the judgment of other members of your leadership team, even if they are more willing to take chances than you might have been.

Detail-Oriented CEO

This CEO is sometimes known as being a bit of a control freak; they love the nuts and bolts, and they pride themselves on knowing how everything works and being able to do every job in the company. The detail-oriented CEO can be great to work for because they tend to capitalize on opportunities and create accountability within the organization. The downside of this CEO is if they become micromanagers who can't let go; while it's great to pay attention to detail, a detail-oriented CEO needs to delegate and trust people to do their jobs.

Successful detail-oriented CEOs need to learn when to let go of some of their meticulousness in everyday situations and when to dial up their detail orientation when it matters most. For example, a new product launch or major initiative coming up is a great time for the CEO to be actively involved. Look for ways to relinquish control in more mundane scenarios, so you can focus on adding the most value in the highest-leverage situations.

Results-Oriented CEO

This CEO is interested in getting things done and getting the results. The results-oriented CEO is great at creating high-performing systems and holding their people accountable, but a drawback of this CEO style is that they sometimes can be overly aggressive or willing to cut corners in order to get the results they seek.

Results-oriented CEOs need to create a system of checks and balances within the company for quality assurance, ethical practices, and regulatory compliance. To ensure that the company is not exposed to costly mistakes and liabilities, results-oriented CEOs should listen to voices of caution even if it’s not your first instinct.

Process-Oriented CEO

Unlike the results-oriented CEO, this CEO puts a stronger focus on getting things done “right”, even if it takes more time and effort. Process-oriented leadership can be great at managing risks and creating efficiency, but sometimes the process-oriented CEO's meticulous attention to detail leads to an environment of micromanagement that can be counterproductive.

The process-oriented CEO needs to balance a leadership team with a blend of process-oriented and results-oriented executives. Assign some key initiatives to your more “results-oriented” people and give them the freedom to experiment with different styles of leadership for different projects or opportunities.

Facilitator CEO

This CEO is great at recruiting, hiring, and leading teams of people, but not by charismatic force of personality; rather, this CEO acts like more of a community organizer or seminar leader. The facilitator CEO is effective in building on the strengths of the team, inspiring the team to generate ideas, and drawing out the best contributions from everyone. One drawback with this facilitative style is that sometimes this CEO is too eager to defer to others and is not decisive enough.

The company’s course is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO. Welcoming diverse perspectives has its advantages, but the facilitator CEO must take advantage of opportunities to proactively put their stamp on things.

Whether or not a leader is the “right” type of CEO will depend on many factors — including the type and size of business, its industry, the competitive environment, and its stage of growth.

Not every CEO is neatly defined by one of these categories. Every small business owner has their own unique personality, temperament, and leadership preferences, based on their experiences and values. While you may tend toward the characteristics of one type, you could have qualities of several or all of the above types of CEOs — each of which can serve you, depending on your situation.

The best CEOs synthesize and adopt the best ideas and leadership concepts from lots of sources. Whatever style you identify with, it's important to stay focused on your company's overall strengths and objectives, and then be willing to do the right thing for your customers, your people, and your business.

About This Author

Benjamin Gran

Benjamin Gran is a full-time freelance writer specializing in blog articles, white papers, technical writing, speech writing and other business writing.

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