CEO School pp 11-23 | Cite as

Class 2: Personality—The Three Essential Traits of the CEO

  • Stanislav Shekshnia
  • Kirill Kravchenko
  • Elin Williams


There are three personality traits that our experts believe to be essential for any CEO’s success: curiosity, ambition and passion (or CAP for short). Although there’s not much talk of curiosity in the academic literature on leadership, for our experts it seems to be a non-negotiable requisite. They also shared some very specific practices that can enhance curiosity—from experimenting to travelling widely and speaking with strangers. Ambition has long been associated with effective leadership, and for our CEOs, the challenge is how to make leadership ambition sustainable. Ironically, according to our interviewees, success can be a bigger threat to ambition than failure. If there’s one practical tip that emerges from our research it is: never, ever, rest on your laurels and always keep looking to the future. Passion for what they do helps CEOs to aspire to new heights, learn new tricks, focus on results and enjoy hard work. It’s essential for world-class performance in all spheres of human activity—and leadership is no exception.


Ambition Curiosity CEO personality Passion Practice Trait theories of leadership 

Some Further Reading

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  3. Drucker, P. F. (1954) The Practice of Management. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  4. Drucker, P. (1999) Managing Oneself. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. and McKee, A. (2002) Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  6. Johansen, B. (2009) Leaders Make the Future. Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  7. Kets de Vries, M. F. R. (2006a). The Leadership Mystique: a user’s manual for the human enterprise. FT Press.Google Scholar
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  9. Kets de Vries, M. F. R. (2017). Riding the Leadership Rollercoaster. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Krames, J. A. (2002) The Jack Welch Lexicon of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  11. Reeves, M., Harnoss, J. An Agenda for the Future of Global Business. Harvard Business Review, 2017.
  12. Shakespeare, W. (2015). Macbeth. New York: Diversion Books.Google Scholar
  13. Staogdill, R. M. (1974) Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of the Literature. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Useem, M (1998) The Leadership Moment. New York: Three Rivers Book.Google Scholar
  15. Velsor E.V., McCauley C.D., Ruderman M.N. (Eds.) (2010) The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development. Third Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanislav Shekshnia
    • 1
  • Kirill Kravchenko
    • 2
  • Elin Williams
    • 3
  1. 1.INSEADFontainebleauFrance
  2. 2.Gubkin Oil and Gas UniversityMoscowRussia
  3. 3.OxfordUK

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