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Four quadrants of the CEO skillset

Evgeny Shadchnev
Evgeny Shadchnev
1 min read

As a founder coach, I noticed that the coaching conversations with the CEOs I'm working with tend to fall into four areas, which offer a way to think about the skillset of a startup CEO.

I think about it as four quadrants, formed by two axes: internal/external and company/individual.

Four quadrants of CEO skills.

To be successful, every CEO will use skills from all four quadrants.

The first quadrant covers self-awareness, a key skill for any leader. An understanding of one's own skills, goals, values, emotions, feeling and purpose helps the leader to set priorities, choose good goals, be efficient and feel well in the process. As a coach, I sometimes see founders suffer from an internal conflict that they don't see and therefore can't address.

The second quadrant covers relationship skills. As CEOs, we spend most of our time building and managing relationships: hiring, firing, selling, persuading, understanding others, listening to them, inspiring and aligning them. If we often experience interpersonal conflicts we didn't choose or feel we don't understand others or aren't understood ourselves, it can speak to a lack of skills in this quadrant.

The third quadrant covers the skills requires to run the company day to day. Often, challenges in this quadrant manifest as high turnover, siloes across teams, poor culture or a broken OKRs process. Many books for startup CEOs focus mostly on this quadrant.

The fourth quadrant is all about how the company is seen from the outside. It covers the vision and mission, but also fundraising and the role the business plays in the society.

As a CEO, I invite you to reflect on these questions:

  • What are my strongest skills?
  • Where would I like to grow?
  • How deeply does the company purpose resonate inside me?
  • What would make it easier for others to work with me?
  • What kind of company would I like to build?
  • Having reflected on these questions, what are my next steps?