The Mindset of a CEO

Want to develop the mindset of a CEO?

If you’re an entrepreneur, founder or boss, you’re likely looking to run your business more effectively and become a better leader.

However, perhaps you simply want to improve other aspects of your life by adopting high-performance habits.

In both cases, harnessing the correct psychological tools will help.

Let’s dive in.

Psychological heuristics

I’ve had the good fortune to work with top performers in various fields, first as a physiotherapist/coach and now in digital strategy.

From elite athletes to CEO’s and on one occasion, even a Chinese film star, they all exhibit similar characteristics.

Experiencing their drive and determination first-hand, I wondered if such behaviours could be mapped and mimicked.

After all, despite the unique choices which result in a particular career, the mental models used to interpret the world are universal.

By leveraging the psychological heuristics of CEO’s, we can discover not only how to become an inspiring force for others, but simultaneously improve personal performance.

In this way, this article is not only for those wishing to learn CEO skills for professional gain, but also how to master the leadership mentality for personal development.

The mindset of a CEO


Perhaps the most significant trait shown CEO’s is clarity of purpose.

Seldom do you discover a CEO or founder who doesn’t possess a clear vision for the future.

Even if the end goal is subject to change, it’s vital to have a guiding north star to shape your daily decisions and resultant behaviours.

After all, it becomes difficult to make meaningful progress when confusion reigns.

If ever you’re unsure what to do, you can always cross-check your vision against your current choices for congruence.

Beginner’s mind

I once worked with a CEO who thought he knew best in every situation, which was frustrating for the rest of the team, who were subject matter experts.

In contrast, the best CEO’s don’t pretend to have all the answers.

They adopt a beginner’s mind philosophy and listen to those who support their vision, before making a balanced call.

In this way, it becomes less about ego-driven performance and more about acting in service of the overall mission and vision.


While some would argue that the best CEO’s are tyrannically purpose-driven and bulldoze any obstacles (people included), I would argue that this approach misses the point entirely.

Take Steve Jobs, for example. Lauded as arguably the most visionary founder, but apparently, a nightmare to work with.

While you can make the best business decisions in the world, if you’re rich and miserable, is it really worth it?

Surely, along with professional success, we also want to live a happy life, surrounded by a supportive team.

And it’s not an either/or decision.

In my experience, the best CEO’s know that their vision can’t be achieved in isolation.

They care about the people around them and are empathetic to their needs, fostering the type of tight-knit team that only accelerates progress.


This might sound like an obvious trait to embody, but in practice, it’s a difficult role to play.

I’ve worked with a couple of amazing leaders and in both instances, their ability to inspire those around them was unique and distinctive.

They were interested in their people and invested in their success, making them instantly likeable.

When you operate in a supportive and trusting environment, you shift from a defensive, fight or flight mindset to one of potential and possibility.

This culture compounds, with a butterfly effect spreading forth from the CEO, encouraging increased creativity and critical thinking.

The second factor in great leadership is the ability for CEO’s to lead by example.

In the early days of Amazon, for example, Jeff Bezos and the C-Suite team helped factory workers every year with the pre-Christmas rush. Inspiring stuff.


Having a clear purpose makes every decision easier.

After all, you simply benchmark the options against your mission and determine if the predicted outcome correlates.

If you want to apply the mindset of a CEO to your personal life, the same principle applies.

Say you’re deciding whether to buy a new car, but have a clearly-defined vision of saving money for your children’s future education.

The fleeting indulgence of a new purchase doesn’t serve your deeper vision for well-educated, rounded children. Decision-made.

That said, we can’t always predict the results of our actions.

In such situations, the best CEO’s consult and information gather, but don’t delay their decision.

A decision made is often better than a decision delayed, in that same way that progress is better than perfection.

We can generally recover from most mistakes or course-correct after the fact.


We can do all the planning in the world, but at some point, that preparation must be transformed into high leverage activities.

This is where the mindset of a CEO really shines.

Where many of us procrastinate for fear of failure, high performers are comfortable initiating action, however unrefined it may be.

This might include delegation to a team or if you’re working on a personal project, simply getting underway without having all the answers.

The willingness to learn through repeated action not only allows us to shape our vision on the fly, but adopt new approaches based on continuous testing and data-driven feedback.

Active engagement with your goals, however unprepared you feel, will yield the fastest progress.


Imagining the mindset of a CEO as it applies to your personal situation is a useful thought experiment.

By externalising your current set of options and hypothesising how a high performer would react in the same situation, you can improve your analysis, forecasting and resultant and decision-making skills.

Let me know how you get on 🙂