New Research from ECI Partners Reveals Being Realistic is the Top Trait of a Successful Leader

A quarter of CEOs (25%) think being realistic is the most important characteristic of a successful business leader, according to ECI Partners’ new Growth Characteristics report, released today.

The research found that being realistic is even more essential for leaders of larger companies, with 35% of CEOs in businesses with 500 or more employees citing it as the most essential trait when it comes to being a successful business leader. Realism was closely followed by being logical (24%) and loyal (19%) as the most important traits of a successful CEO.

ECI, the growth-focused private equity firm, surveyed over 500 fast-growth SME business leaders as part of its Growth Characteristics report in order to define what makes a successful CEO as well as to understand current challenges and growth opportunities.

Interestingly, less than one in ten (8%) stated that being enthusiastic or inspirational was a key characteristic for being a business leader, and only 15% of business leaders cited the importance of being vision-led.



Leaders may recognise that, more than just being figureheads, their focus needs to be on delivering demonstrable results, a viewpoint which may have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with businesses needing to be realistic about what could be achieved in trying circumstances.

Tom Wrenn, Managing Partner at ECI Partners said: “Businesses have contended with a wide range of new challenges in the last two years and strong leadership has been crucial to help businesses both survive and thrive. The personalities, behaviours and attributes of business leaders will have played a major part in how businesses and teams have responded to these challenges and how they’re positioning themselves for the future.”

Joanna Swash, Group CEO at the ECI-backed leading outsourced communications company, Moneypenny added: “I’m not surprised that the three most important characteristics are to be ‘realistic, logical and loyal’ and for me, I’d summarise these under the ‘authentic leader’ banner, which I am passionate about.

“In a fast-paced, high growth business environment, your people need to really believe in you, knowing that your decisions and actions have extremely firm foundations and that you always speak the truth and are not afraid to share both the good and bad news. If this authenticity runs throughout the company culture, then your people will in turn emulate this behaviour, helping them to be the best they can be.”