A recent Quora discussion posed the question: What separates the top 10% of startup CEOs from the rest? As a startup ourselves, our curiosity was naturally piqued. We decided to compile a list from this discussion – driven by insights from a diverse group of contributors, from Venture Capitalists and entrepreneurs to consultants and startup CEOs themselves – featuring what we thought were the most critical attributes. Here are the 10 most important characteristics of the best startup CEOs.

The Power of Persuasion

Even the most brilliant CEOs won’t go far if they can’t convince others of their own brilliance and beliefs. The best CEOs can articulate themselves and their company clearly and meaningfully to investors, customers and employees alike.

An Analytical Mindset

CEOs must be able to measure and analyze everything that their company does. They ask probing questions, implement data-driven best practices and are constantly studying reports on how their company is doing or how they can improve.

Unrelenting Determination

Even the CEOs of the most successful and prosperous startups will have days that make them want to pull their hair out and just give up. The best CEOs dig deep when the going gets tough and are determined to keep on pushing toward their goals.

Clear Communication

CEOs should be clear and concise in all their communications, both written and verbal. If they cannot articulate their goals, beliefs, thought processes and expertise to audiences, they will not be able to grow their business.


CEOs often have to put themselves in the shoes of others – including clients, investors and employees.  If you can’t understand and empathize with your customers’ or employees’ concerns, you might quickly alienate both parties, who are highly critical to your business.

Creative Innovation

The harsh reality in today’s business world is that most startups never make it out of early stages. To remain competitive, CEOs must constantly have ground-breaking ideas and cutting-edge innovations for creating in-demand products or services and to stay ahead of the sales management curve.

A Detail-Oriented Mindset

The best CEOs are detail-oriented and exhibit excellent time management and organizational skills. This doesn’t mean making their employees miserable by micromanaging them, but rather ensuing that there is an effective system in place to track key sales performance metrics of individual employees.

A Keen Eye for Talent

Part of what makes a great CEO is being an excellent recruiter. Try as they might, CEOs cannot take care of everything themselves, which means that they must put the right people and the right teams around them. While talent is important, cultural and philosophical fits might be just as critical.

Motivational Skills

Successful CEOs make it their mission to consistently encourage their employees to keep putting in high performances in the interest of the entire team. Motivation can be the difference between mediocre performances and exceptional ones.

Unbridled Passion

Finally, the best CEOs simply love what they do. The fervently believe in what they have to offer and the greatness of their company and their team.  They are always focused on creating and discovering new ways to better their business.


While there are many different qualities that make a great CEO, these are among the top attributes critical for their survival, especially among early-stage startups. If you’re the CEO of such a startup, consider using this checklist of key traits to grade yourself.

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