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The 2 skills every CEO needs for success

5 min read


The most successful CEOs possess a wide range of skills — some are innate, others are learned. Two critical skills that can be learned and have potential to significantly impact a CEOs success are their ability to create an impression and to win people over.

While industry knowledge and technical expertise are important, business leaders won’t achieve as much if they can’t communicate effectively. Strong interpersonal skills are absolutely necessary to running a company and connecting with key partners.

A few subtle changes will drastically improve your ability to impress those you meet and win their hearts and minds. Here are some tips to get you started.


Creating an impression requires more than a firm handshake; you need charisma. Not sure you have what it takes? The good news is that charisma can be learned.

To step up your own charisma, consider what attracts people to others, and then put those actions into practice in your work life. Charismatic people often tap into these 10 traits and techniques:

  1. A sense of hope: Optimists outperform pessimists in politics, sales and social connections. Convey hope through an optimistic view of the future and confidence in others’ abilities.
  2. A clear passion: Passionate people are interesting, and their excitement is contagious. Exude passion by sharing your distinct point of view, demonstrating your focus and speaking with energy.
  3. A strong connection: You know that feeling of being “in sync” with an old friend or “clicking” with a new contact? Encourage that connection by matching your body language and speech patterns to those you meet, as well as offering up views and values that align with those of your audience.
  4. Congruence between words and actions: Inconsistencies between what a person says and what he or she does come across as inauthentic. To gain trust, concentrate on the conversation and speak about things you care about and believe in.
  5. Impact words: The right words have the power to change how people feel. Use words that express emotion, appeal to the senses or create a picture in the listener’s mind and you’ll really make an impact.
  6. Generous answers: One-word responses won’t fuel a conversation or build a connection. Share specific details — and even your feelings — when answering other people’s questions in order to foster true engagement.
  7. Stimulating questions: The right questions not only elicit a verbal or written response, but also an emotional one. Ask questions that make people think of a positive experience, a favorite person or an uplifting memory, and those feelings will translate to a stronger sense of connection.
  8. Storytelling: Advice and insight are great, but stories capture people’s hearts and make a message more relatable. Incorporate the elements of a good story into your own conversations to boost your charisma.
  9. Surprises: The unexpected will grab people’s attention and intrigue them. Use a surprising statement, story or action and you’ll be irresistible.
  10. Involving listeners in their speech: Putting your audience in the center of the story automatically draws them in. Get others involved by drawing comparisons between your story and their own experiences, using inclusive body language or simply acknowledging the listener by name.

Commit to integrating one or more of these points in your own communications, and you’ll experience the incredible impact of charisma.

Win people over

A great impression is a powerful part of relationship-building. But for CEOs to win at work, they also have to win people over.

Whether they’re getting internal staff on board with a new initiative or convincing key clients to move forward with an innovative idea, the most successful leaders understand these nine tactics of influence and which ones are most effective in specific situations:

  1. Reasoning: use facts and logic to make a case.
  2. Inspiring: appeal to the emotions and present the possibilities.
  3. Asking questions: encourage the other person to come to your conclusion on their own.
  4. Cozying up: create positive feelings to boost your chances for alignment.
  5. Deal-making: offer something in return for the other person’s agreement.
  6. Favor-asking: ask for something because you need or want it, not because you’re giving anything in return.
  7. Using silent allies: cite other people who are similar to the person you’re trying to persuade as support for your point.
  8. Invoking authority: appeal to a rule or position of power.
  9. Forcing: use threats, warnings or other assertive behavior.

How do you determine which tactic to use? Assess the situation. Understand the other person’s position and the reasons behind his or her point of view. And then get strategic — even combining multiple tactics or changing your approach if you don’t make headway at first.

With time, your skills will improve and you’ll become more comfortable — and successful — at impressing people with your charisma and winning their hearts and minds.

Dr. Sebastian Bailey is a bestselling author and the co-founder of Mind Gym, a corporate learning consultancy that transforms the way people think, act and behave at work and at home. His newest book, “Mind Gym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently,” was released in September 2014. The book gives readers actionable ways, based on years of research, to change their way of thinking to achieve more, live longer and build better relationships. Connect with Sebastian on Twitter @DrSebBailey.

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