Do You Have the DNA to Be a CEO?

Predestined to be a CEO? Behavioral drives and the weight they carry.

Is everyone equally equipped to become a CEO so that anyone who strives hard enough can be a strong leader? Or are some of us born with a propensity for leadership, the CEO DNA as it were, providing us with a distinct advantage from the start? This is the question we will aim to answer in this article on behavioral drives.

Behavioral drives are internal drives that influence why you do what you do. It is possible to determine behavioral drives through assessments like the Predictive Index®, which measures certain characteristics that describe, explain, and predict day-to-day workplace behaviors. This index has been used by many organizations for over 60 years to predict employee success. Since this is my area of expertise, this is what I will use for this article as I explain behavioral drives.


The Predictive Index measures behavioral drives in the areas of Dominance (independent, assertive, and self-confident versus agreeable, cooperative, and accommodating), Extraversion (outgoing, persuasive, and socially poised versus serious, introspective, and task-oriented), Patience (patient, consistent, and deliberate versus fast-paced, urgent, and intense), and Formality (organized, precise, and self-disciplined versus informal, casual, and uninhibited). The resulting profile of an individual is used to predict workplace performance and success in different roles. By taking the Predictive Index survey, employees and employment candidates are assigned behavioral profiles.

The typical profile of a CEO or leader is someone who has the need to be in control, to dominate, to be autonomous, to take risks, to compete, and to find out-of-the-box solutions. Typical CEOs embrace change and can often be found starting arguments just to stir the pot and see what comes out. Can you relate? Or are you a non-typical CEO whose DNA is more laid back and yet you are successful in your role because your company culture demands different behaviors or you have figured out ways to adapt and motivate those around you? All of the best leaders, CEO DNA or not, are in tune with their strengths and weaknesses and know when to take a back seat.

So where would you, a CEO reading this, fit on this scale? Do you see yourself in these behavioral measures? Do you understand what motivates your own behavior? Do you see the value in understanding how you as well as your employees and employee candidates score on the Predictive Index?

The question is this: Are you a slave to whatever profile you inherited at birth or is it possible to change? Could just anyone grow into a CEO personality? Or can you grow out of it? Read on to find out.

Behavioral drives are flexible. There is hope for those who do not have the perfect behavioral profile for a particular role. It starts with a deep self-awareness and then a desire and clear understanding that your motivational needs may not be the same as others’, and therefore you must learn to adapt; this is not a permanent change but an adaptation to motivate those around you. You can then fill your gaps in other ways. The best way to fill those gaps is by surrounding yourself with people who are strong in areas where you are weak. For example, are you on fire with out-of-the-box solutions but have trouble maintaining regular production of last week’s idea? Partner with someone who excels at maintaining the status quo. Understanding your own personal strengths and weaknesses will go far in making you a better leader, CEO DNA or not, and will guide you to know when to step forward and when to take a back seat.

With that said, can someone grow to obtain CEO behaviors? This is an important question for a few reasons. Say you wish to leave your company to a son or daughter who doesn’t seem to possess leadership drives. Is there any hope for your succession plan? Or perhaps you would like to become a CEO but don’t currently have the ideal drives. Or maybe you currently have a leader in your company who needs to quickly develop some leadership drives in order for the company to stay healthy. 

Whatever the reason, the answer is yes; it is possible for most people to grow into leadership drives although some may have further to grow than others. Let’s examine some examples.

Example 1: Joe has non-CEO behavioral drives (he is overly patient and task-oriented in a company that is fast-paced and requires urgent decisions). To succeed as CEO, he will need to delegate certain tasks to someone else inside the company, perhaps a vice president, who has the drives that are needed to move the company forward. His delegation of certain tasks even on an ad hoc or temporary basis can help the company stay healthy as he learns to become more leadership oriented.

Example 2: Cindy brought typical CEO drives (competitive, domineering, controlling) to her role in a new company, yet she soon discovered she had to adapt her behavior to the culture of the company. Although her motivation may still be the same, the way she accomplishes tasks and relates to people in this new environment will help her succeed.

It is important to take CEO DNA with a grain of salt, because even if you have it, there is no guarantee you will succeed in just any scenario. For all CEOs, success takes the support of the whole company. A strong CEO at one company can move to another and not fit well at all. The goals of the company and the culture of everyone working there play a big role in success.

Example 3: A collaborative leader buying a fast-paced, highly creative technology startup that was built around an autonomous CEO will cause the culture to change drastically. The company culture will essentially have to be rebuilt around the new CEO’s behavioral drives.

In closing, DNA, plays a large role in why you’re a CEO, but if you’re a successful leader, you no doubt have many people around you to thank. If you lack more CEO drives than you have, there is still hope if you surround yourself with people who can fill your gaps.