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  • Writer's pictureLeeanne Carson-Hughes

The Savvy Leader #1 The 4 skills of a modern CEO

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

The 4 skills of a modern Chief Executive

In 2023, the skills required by a valued and successful Chief Executive are different to what we saw 5 years ago.

The world has shifted and while all the traditional traits and skills have a place there are now a range of new and additional competencies to master.

If you are a Chief Executive or aspiring to be one... are you fit to lead?

I checked out a bunch of research and apart from the obvious skills of being a financial steward, strategic thinker and corporate diplomat there was a lot of chatter about these ones in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, World Economic Forum and other University sites:

1. Have highly developed social skills/ EQ

2. Be socially aware

3. Keep up with technology and data literacy

4. Be a Decision making legend

What follows is a short explanation and few tips on how to build your modern CE skill set

1. Social Skills/ Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Lets start with the most obvious one.

Harvard research shows that the adverts seeking CEOs who are good with people has risen dramatically since 2007. And while the numbers stop pre pandemic I cant imagine it has gone back.

Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

EQ enables you to understand your impact on others and how they experience you.


If you want to know how you are doing, you can test your EQ (Your People Team or Psych testing provider can do this for you)

Because once you understand yourself you can learn to flex your style in a way that creates the greatest impact for those you lead and serve

2. Be Socially aware

There is growing consumer sentiment around supporting companies that create positive change in the world and deliver on promises of equality, environmental protection and social welfare.

We also know that people particularly under the age of 30 are attracted to a socially aware and active organisations.

A recent study by Deloitte reveals that 34% of consumers choose to support brands with sustainable practices and values.

CEs need to develop a wide range of social awareness to lead issues like climate change, government reforms, equity, mental health and Te Ao Maori.


· Surround yourself with people from diverse backgrounds and don’t be afraid to have a wide range of discussions with your people (BTW - this is one where you use your ears more than your mouth)

· Attend industry updates on social matters

· Follow social thought leaders on linkedin

· Learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Check out Bridget Williams founder of Bead and Proceed.

3. Technology & Data Literacy

Knowing how to select and deploy the right technology solutions is a critical component to ensure the success of your business.

For the modern CEO, part of this is making sure you have the right technology leadership (CIO, CDO) that you trust, who has some level of business acumen so the right conversations can take place. Ideally between the two of you, you create a bridge between the tech and business needs.

You will need to come up to speed with critical issues like cyber security, technology stack maturity and what tech offerings you can use to differentiate your business.

Data management and analytics is key to many businesses now and is one of the most valuable resources a business has – so the tech area is not just about the tools, you need to understand the value of your data and how you will obtain it, protect it and use it to your competitive advantage.

Naturally further advancements in Artificial intelligence are happening fast so staying up with how to use them in your organisation will be important.


· Consider having a CIO at the top table

· Get a maturity assessment done of your tech stack so you know where you need to focus your attention and budget (Deloitte does a great job of this)

· Attend tech industry updates that your main tech providers will run – don’t just leave it to your tech team to attend

Be a Decision Making legend

“High-performing CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive.”

Modern CEs will need to make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater commitment.

They will need to do so consistently — even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar facets.

Part of decision making is also knowing when to call STOP and fail fast. Sometimes the harder decision is to say no or stop rather than yes.

Data driven decision making does make it easier especially when you have enough data at hand to make a fair call. (See above about your data management skill).

Decisions often take courage. That’s your role….gather the info, get the advice from the subject matter experts and make the call and then make it work (or fail fast).

Understand that complicated decisions (known unknowns) can usually be made by subject matter experts but complex (unknown unknowns) may require a diverse range of experts at the table. Don't hesitate to get advice and involve your experts in the decision making process.


· Check out the MIT Sloan article on complicated versus complex

· Some people like a decision making matrix tool – good for those people who like to see all the facts on one sheet

· Sleep on it – while pace is important, processing your thinking with a clear head will often provide you clarity of thought.


As a Chief Executive, you need all the traditional leadership skills but in 2023 you will also need a bunch of modern skills. These are just 4 that are very applicable to modern CEs.

1. Have highly developed social skills/ EQ

2. Be socially aware

3. Keep up with technology and data literacy

4. Be a Decision making legend

And… If you are not sure you are good enough at any of these – just ask your people, they will likely tell you!

Whenever you are ready there are 4 ways I can help you

Consider if 1:1 Coaching is the right tool for you at this time – I coach Executives and aspiring Executives all over New Zealand.

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