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Career Advice

4 Traits To Look For In A Highly Rated CEO

Posted by Heather Huhman

June 16, 2015

When is the last time you thought about how the CEO impacts a company you want to work for before you applied?

If you’re like many job seekers, your company analysis probably focuses more on things like compensation, cultural fit, and advancement opportunities. But think about who influences those things.

In most cases, the CEO’s leadership style, vision and personality help shape the company’s culture and structure, making them an important part of the puzzle for job seekers looking for the right fit.

Glassdoor recently released its annual list of Highest Rated CEOs and this year’s top five highest rated women CEOs. Unsurprisingly, CEOs from companies like Google, Nike, Starbucks, and Apple graced the top 50. But what makes these CEOs so highly rated? What should job seekers learn to look for in upper management based on Glassdoor’s list?


Here are four outstanding traits that the best CEOs share, and why job seekers should look for them in the leadership of the companies they’re interested in:

1. Vision that inspires.

When upper management has a clear strategic vision, it inspires people at every level of an organization.

By continuously sharing that vision and helping their employees understand how they fit into the overall success of the organization -- both today and in the future -- CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Kay Krill of Ann Taylor respectively inspire their employees to work “with more passion and happiness,” and make employees “feel inspired and eager to come to work everyday,” according to anonymous Glassdoor reviewers.

When you’re considering where to work, it’s important to find an organization you look forward to being a part of everyday. Look for companies with leaders who value each individual’s contribution to the organization’s success and make them feel like a part of their long-term vision for the company. Leadership with a vision is inspiring, and that will make you a more engaged employee.

2. Accessibility.

Would you rather work somewhere where, in 10 years, you’ll only catch a fleeting glimpse of the CEO? Or somewhere where you see the CEO at lunch and *GASP* have a chance to say hello and strike up a conversation?

Employees at Google clearly love the fact that they can interact with Glassdoor’s 2015 Highest Rated CEO, Larry Page, any time they see him: “You'll see Larry… at TGIF and you'll admire how they lead the company. They are brilliant, goofy, low key but intense, and likeable.” This accessibility helps create a culture of camaraderie and shows employees that upper management is with them, every step of the way.

Sure, CEOs and upper management have different priorities and challenges, but the highest rated CEOS care about the direction of the organization and want people to feel at home around them, not intimidated.

According to one Glassdoor reviewer, Enterprise CEO Pam Nicholson has created the same kind of culture, one that supports and encourages accessible leadership: “I love the people I work with! It's not intimidating at all to reach out to upper management and there's so much support from them!”

Supportive and accessible leadership can help you make an impact with your ideas and, ultimately, advance your career faster.

3. Respect.

How annoying is it when leadership micro-manages every aspect of your work? At Google and other top rated organizations, CEOs and leadership know how to step back and respect their employees’ abilities. They understand that their employees are the ones who produce on a daily basis and respect them enough to give them the freedom they need.

Job seekers should attempt to find organizations that value and respect their ability to contribute to the organization’s goals. Not only will this make the daily grind more enjoyable, but also it will help job seekers make an impact and highlight how much they care about the organization through their work.

4. Engaging employees.

Today, most employees are disengaged at work. CEOs like Dara Khosrowshahi from Expedia and Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin make sure their employees are not a part of that majority. They know how to keep employees engaged and encourage their growth.

For example, employee reviews of Khosrowshahi suggest that he and Expedia’s leadership team “truly cares about their employees and encourages growth both professionally and personally.” And Hewson from Lockheed Martin is not any different: “Upper management [is] always interested in employee feedback…Everything extra you give is valued.”

These two CEOs keep their employees engaged by listening to them and encouraging them to share ideas that will make their organizations better. For job seekers, organizations like this offer more opportunities for growth and advancement.

What traits do you look for in a company’s leadership? How do you find out more about a company’s leadership before applying? During an interview?