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7 Steps To CEO Mastery

Written by: Paulina Stankiewicz, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Paulina Stankiewicz

The path to CEO mastery is paved with challenges that demand not just business acumen but a profound commitment to leadership that inspires and transforms. This article, "7 Steps to CEO Mastery," offers a down to earth essence of what it truly means to lead with impact, covering everything from the nuances of hiring to the challenges of tough decision-making. It's a compact guide for ambitious leaders seeking to navigate the responsibilities of their role while staying true to their vision and inspiring their teams to greatness.

Cropped shot of a handsome mature businessman leaving his office after work

1. What it really means to lead

What exactly constitutes the role of a leader? Suppose you were tasked with recruiting a leader for your organization, how would you articulate the responsibilities to potential candidates?

To assist in this endeavor, I aim to encapsulate all crucial leadership dimensions in a comprehensive list, alongside requisite industry familiarity. We'll exclude job-specific skills for the sake of a broad application.

Let's dive in.

When pondering leadership, the character immediately springs to mind — an individual grounded in their principles, someone of unwavering integrity. It's about embodying one's values and adhering to lofty standards. While many may talk the talk, not everyone meets the criteria I seek in a leader for my team.

In today's diverse landscape, a leader must possess a degree of cultural insight, embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity. Recognizing and respecting differences is imperative. This entails empathy, a propensity for thoughtful consideration, and an awareness of personal biases and preconceptions. These attributes are vital for cultivating a cohesive, high-performing team.

To achieve such cohesion, interpersonal connections and a sense of belonging are paramount; creating this environment and empowering the team falls squarely on the leader's shoulders.

Moving along, proficiency in business acumen and financial management is non-negotiable. A competent leader comprehends the organization's objectives and what constitutes success. Save for non-profits, every entity aims for profitability; thus, the ability to evaluate opportunities and communicate them effectively is indispensable.

Moreover, effective leadership entails adept team management — fostering camaraderie and promoting teamwork. Not everyone possesses this knack; some excel as individual contributors. Hence, when seeking a leader, I prioritize this managerial prowess.

Caring is another pivotal attribute for me: how invested is the leader in their team members' well-being vis-à-vis their achievements? Are they committed to nurturing their direct reports and colleagues? How readily do they share knowledge and support?

Depending on the company's needs, organizational acumen and strategic proficiency also warrant consideration. Will this leader assume strategic responsibilities? Ideally, any team leader should possess strategic foresight, envisioning the evolving landscape.

Organizational acumen proves invaluable during restructuring, whether due to expansion or setbacks. A competent leader can assess the situation and adapt the organization accordingly. Hiring a leader lacking this skill places an undue burden on the CEO in the long run.

Lastly, passion and inspiration are indispensable. I seek leaders who exude enthusiasm for their work, intrinsically motivated to grow and inspire others. Gallup's research revealing that nearly half the global workforce experiences burnout is disconcerting.

Burnout is a prevalent issue among my acquaintances, with stories of panic attacks surfacing frequently. As a hiring manager, I prioritize ensuring that leaders, like any other employee, are in the right role. Passion and inspiration serve as barometers of their alignment with the organization. After all, sustainable motivation cannot be coerced. I look for that glint in their eyes, the genuine smile, the confident posture—a reflection of fulfillment.


2. How to be a better boss

To enhance your leadership skills, the journey begins with self-reflection. It's a simple yet essential step. Leading others effectively demands being a beacon of inspiration. But if you're unsure of your own identity and purpose, how can you expect to ignite inspiration in others?

Find a serene spot, prepare a soothing cup of tea, and take a moment to center yourself. Inhale deeply and ponder:

What drives me?

What truly matters in my life?

And why do these aspects hold significance?

Consider keeping a journal handy to capture your thoughts. Explore your core values and what motivates you.

Now, confront yourself candidly: Are you aligned with the demands of your role? Or are external factors such as money, status, or security the driving forces behind your actions? Once you've clarified this aspect, delve deeper into self-awareness:

What are your primary strengths?

What expertise can you impart to your team effortlessly? What activities bring you genuine joy?

Moreover, acknowledge your areas for improvement: What tasks do you struggle with?

What responsibilities would you prefer to delegate?

What qualities do you admire most in your team members?

Conducting this inner exploration is crucial for authenticity and transparency. Your team likely perceives these aspects, so it's beneficial not to overlook them.


How would you like to get support in creating space to think for yourself? Here is a free resource CEO Hour Worksheet that you can download.


3. How to hire right as your business grows

Selecting the right individuals stands out as one of the most pivotal tasks for both leaders and hiring managers. But how can you navigate this process effectively?

First and foremost, commit to being deliberate in your approach. Some managers simply post a job description and hire the first seemingly compatible candidate, falling prey to the "like-me bias." Yet, they later find themselves puzzled as to why things aren't unfolding as expected. It all starts with prioritizing the composition of your team with the right people. This entails adopting a "hire slow, fire fast" mindset.

Preparation is key. Begin by delineating the company's values. Then, outline the values and traits essential for the specific role. For instance, while a financial analyst might thrive as an introvert, a salesperson typically requires an extroverted disposition. Consider both present needs and prospects for the role. You're not just hiring for today; you're hiring for tomorrow as well.

During interviews, craft questions meticulously to probe into candidates' professional experience, personality, and cultural fit. Deliberately pose inquiries aimed at unveiling desired characteristics or strengths. Remember, passion cannot be taught; seek individuals who exhibit genuine enthusiasm for the role.

For larger companies, enlist the assistance of others in the interview process. Organize panel interviews in a relaxed atmosphere, inviting colleagues from various departments to offer diverse perspectives. This approach helps mitigate bias and uncover blind spots.

Despite the familiarity of questions concerning strengths and weaknesses, they remain crucial for eliciting valuable insights. Consider reframing these inquiries to maintain engagement and freshness. Ultimately, aim to identify both the strengths and areas for improvement of potential hires by the interview's conclusion.

Trust your instincts and address any reservations directly. If something feels amiss, inquire further and seek clarification. If lingering doubts persist, err on the side of caution and refrain from extending an offer. Trusting your intuition can be instrumental in making sound hiring decisions.

4. Deal with the hard truths

At times, you may encounter an employee grappling with personal issues requiring your empathy and support. Alternatively, the problem might stem from a misalignment of values, signaling that the issue could escalate if unaddressed.

The essence of leadership lies in initiating conversations through questions rather than dictating solutions. This approach promotes a culture of open dialogue and welcomes diverse viewpoints.

Your capability to evaluate circumstances and devise appropriate solutions is crucial. Ignoring problems with the hope they will vanish is a futile strategy; they invariably persist. Literature abounds with discussions on the repercussions of retaining unsuitable employees, including the potential loss of your most valuable team members. Indecision, in this context, equates to a passive choice that can lead to the erosion of respect from your team, especially when they sense a lack of decisive action on pressing matters. Ultimately, your responsibility as a leader is to thoroughly examine all evidence and make informed decisions.


5. Making tough choices is part of the job

At times, leaders face the challenging task of making tough decisions, often involving the necessity to part ways with an employee. Regardless of one's experience level, such decisions are never easy to make or carry out. Even if personal feelings toward the individual are not favorable, the process of letting someone go remains emotionally taxing.

However, amidst the difficulty lies a potential silver lining. When an employee is underperforming, it may signify that the current environment isn't conducive to their success or that they lack passion for their role. Yet, many individuals remain in unfulfilling jobs due to the fear of unemployment.

In a broader context, being released from such a role could be seen as a blessing in disguise, nudging the individual to seek out a more fulfilling opportunity. With only one life to live, it's crucial to strive for fulfillment and satisfaction.

A former colleague of mine often espoused the mantra "Run to the problem," which gained popularity among our team. Essentially, it encourages confronting issues head-on rather than avoiding them.

Before deciding to terminate employment, it's vital to exhaust all possible avenues. Conduct thorough peer reviews, offer constructive feedback, and engage in coaching sessions with the employee. Maintain clear and transparent communication throughout the process. No employee should be blindsided by termination; provide ample warning and articulate clear expectations for improvement. Document each step meticulously through a formal performance review process to mitigate any misunderstandings.

If uncertainty lingers, consider asking yourself two pivotal questions: "If given the opportunity to hire this person today, would you do so?"

"If this individual were to depart today, would you feel disappointed or relieved?"

The answers to these questions can provide the clarity needed to make a decisive choice. Once the right decision is discerned, summon your courage and take action — ultimately, the responsibility lies with you as the leader.


Would you welcome more clarity in your business? Grab this free CEO Hour Worksheet that will help you make time to think and act consciously.


6. Building a team that wins


Guiding your team effectively day in and day out involves consistently setting and communicating clear expectations. A strong leader not only harbors a vision for the business or specific department but also establishes objectives in line with that vision and safeguards the organization's culture by upholding its core values.


Cultivating an atmosphere of trust is essential for fostering team unity and growth. Encouraging your team members to openly share their thoughts and offer feedback is invaluable.


In the business world, just as in sports, the principles of discipline and accountability hold significant value. Effective leadership means nurturing a disciplined environment and instituting frameworks that reinforce this ethos. Holding regular team sessions or monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)/Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are practical approaches to track advancement.


The essence of leadership lies in the human interaction it entails — fostering connections and actively engaging with your team can lead to remarkable journeys. There's a saying

that encapsulates this ethos: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."


Building a team that feels interconnected involves forming personal bonds. Make an effort to genuinely connect with each team member, showing authenticity and initiating transparency. Leadership transparency is greatly admired across all sectors. Remember, no matter your role or industry, you're interacting with individuals who seek both connection and recognition. By providing these, you not only fulfill their needs but also find a deeper appreciation for your team that lasts.


7. Stay inspired, CEOs

This final segment is your rallying cry to action!

Yes, I understand – perhaps the notion of taking further steps doesn't quite appeal to you. Maybe you reckon simply digesting the insights from this article suffices. That’s perfectly fine. No need to push beyond comfort.

Yet, if you're inclined to delve a bit deeper, here’s my heartfelt suggestion. Reflect on the following:

Assess your current standing in your quest for leadership mastery. On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you land?

Consider the score you've assigned yourself. How does it resonate with you? Does it fill you with pride, or are you somewhat critical?

Remember, self-critique is unnecessary – perfection is a myth, and this path is a progressive one. Congratulate yourself for engaging with this material and committing to personal growth. You’ve earned my admiration!

Now, identify a single goal you aim to achieve by year's end. Envision your progress in the next five years.

Imagine embodying the role of a transformative leader. Embrace that identity. How does it feel?

What new horizons could you explore from this vantage point? As a leader stepping into your power, who do you become?

What legacy are you driven to establish?

Armed with this vision, confront the harsh truth you’ve possibly been sidestepping. Acknowledge the necessary course of action. Are you prepared to undertake it?

Contemplate how your leadership approach might evolve if your courage were magnified tenfold. How would this influence your life’s trajectory?

Today marks a new beginning. This day heralds the commencement of your renewed journey.

You are the architect of your destiny – embrace this opportunity and seize your true calling!

Would you like some help with inspiration? Subscribe to my newsletter and receive valuable, down-to-earth content that will immediately enrich your life and business.

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Paulina Stankiewicz Brainz Magazine

Paulina Stankiewicz, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paulina is a World Class Leadership Coach for CEOs who excels at igniting iconic presence and personal power in top-tier leaders. She is also an International Speaker and Author. For over 15 years, she held senior roles in Global Corporations serving Fortune 100 companies. This experience coupled with her MBA for Executives allows her to bring the business conversations with her clients to the next level. She is focused on improving the culture of organisations — starting with the top. She holds multiple International certifications and has been trained by the best teachers and coaches in the world. Her mission is to change the world, one leader at a time.



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