Successful CEOs aren’t born, they’re made. They are built from years of hard work, intelligence, foresight, and strategy. The lessons that have made them successful can be applied by thinkers and strategists who want to enjoy power and success in their own lives.

When you’re building a startup from the ground floor, you have decisions to make, people to hire, and equipment to buy. You’ll have to choose between a sitting desk and a standing desk (choose the standing desk, you’ll thank us later). But you also get to execute the vision that has been haunting you for years.

Surround Yourself With Smart People

Some of the most successful people will tell you that the key to success is surrounding yourself with smart people who can help you reach your goals. These intelligent people can offer insights that you may not have considered and help you avoid costly mistakes. The legendary founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once said the following:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Safeguard Your Time

Many professionals spend an excessive amount of time on tasks that don’t add to the bottom line. The top CEOs understand that time is finite, so the most important thing is to spend time on tasks that will grow the business or add value. The most successful CEOs delegate administrative tasks to others to focus on sales, marketing, and growing the business. They work with efficiency and, by extension, inspire efficiency in their teams. 

Harness the Power of “No”

Warren Buffett is known for saying “no,” more times than he says yes. Your productivity depends heavily on your ability to say no to the things that are not in line with your goals and mission. Being a smart leader means saying no to 1,000 things and yes to the one that counts. Entertaining every idea that comes across your desk will only distract you from what needs to be done. 

Understand the Customer Experience

The best CEOs often started out in sales, gaining in-depth knowledge of what customers want and need, and delivering on that. The farther you are from your customer, the less you will be able to make decisions that drive their loyalty. Nance A. Rosen, CEO of NanceSpeaks! says that CEOs should always remain in the loop with their customers, advertisers, and other revenue-generating partners. Without customers, your business will falter. Use empathy to lead with the customer’s needs at the forefront and watch your company grow and thrive. 

Leadership is Not a Popularity Contest

Sometimes CEOs are brought into an organization to turn it around after a loss, bad press, or disaster. Carnival Cruise Line’s CEO Arnold Donald is the prime example of this. Donald was brought in as CEO after the beleaguered cruise line suffered from some public failures. After one of its ships broke down in the middle of the ocean, leaving passengers without toilets for days, the cruise line struggled to retain its standing in the travel arena. Donald had to make a lot of drastic changes to the company’s image—much to the chagrin of its existing stakeholders and administration. Despite his initial lack of popularity, Donald made great strides in improving the company, which experienced rapid growth and a high return on investment under his leadership. 

Train Your Team to Function Without You

Ask your team for feedback and actually listen to their answers. They often have insight that goes unheard, and you will be surprised at how innovative their ideas can be. Encourage them to go to each other for answers instead of coming straight to you. This will empower them to be able to make good decisions in your absence. This, in turn, will free you up to think of the big picture instead of dealing with the minutiae of day to day operations. 

When it comes to being a strong leader and a successful CEO, there are many great lessons from the leadership world. From building strong teams to surrounding yourself with good mentors and understanding your customer, following in the footsteps of influential leaders will give you the success you crave.