Insights From Our Editors

The Top Trait of Successful CEOs – What Is It?

Dr. Sorrenson with her son and practice partner, Eric Hammond, OD, in their weekly staff meeting with Clifford the Big Red Dog in her lap. Dr. Sorrenson says being decisive is known to be a key to success as a CEO, which she has noticed in her own career as a practice owner and leader.

One trait, more than any other, that leads to success in business, including practice leadership.

By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO

Oct. 18, 2023

Are you an optometrist looking to steer your practice to new heights of success? Well, it turns out that there’s an unexpected trait shared by some of the world’s most successful CEOs, and it could be the key to unlocking your optometric practice’s full potential.

That trait is decisiveness, and it’s not just a gut feeling; it’s backed by research from CEO Genome, an extensive analysis conducted by ghSMART, a leadership advisory firm. My thanks to Dori Carlson, OD, FAAO, the American Optometric Association’s first female president, who learned about this research while she was getting her MBA in Leadership!

CEO Genome was no small undertaking. It was a deep dive into the world of CEOs and C-suite executives, involving a sample of over 2,600 leaders plucked from a staggering dataset of 17,000 CEOs and top-level executives. The study also incorporated 13,000 hours of interviews and an impressive two decades of advising CEOs and executive boards.

So, what exactly does this research tell us about decisiveness and how it can benefit optometrists running their practices? Let’s break it down.

Decisiveness – The CEO’s Secret Sauce

Decisiveness, in the context of leadership, refers to the ability to make well-informed and timely decisions, even in the face of uncertainty. It’s that quality that makes a leader capable of taking calculated risks and moving forward confidently. According to CEO Genome, decisiveness is the number one trait, by far, that sets successful CEOs apart from the rest of the pack. I found this fascinating!

Think about it for a moment. In the fast-paced world of optometry, where patient care, technological advancements and industry trends are constantly evolving, the ability to make informed decisions is crucial. Patients rely on optometrists not just for vision correction, but also for guidance on eye health and treatment options. Being decisive allows you to provide the best care for your patients, earning their trust and loyalty. Maybe even more importantly, being decisive can help you grow your practice to the next level.

Applying Decisiveness to Optometric Practices

Now that we know decisiveness is a prized trait among successful CEOs, how can optometrists use this information to improve their practices? Here are some practical tips:

  • Stay Informed: Just as CEOs need to be aware of industry trends, optometrists should keep up with the latest developments in eyecare. Not just in optometry, but in business. Reading the latest business journals and books can help you make decisions that will take your practice to the next level.
  • Set Clear Objectives: Define your practice’s mission, core values and goals. Know where you want to take your practice in the short- and long-term. Having a clear vision will help you make decisions that align with your goals. I am a huge believer in putting most of my energy into where I want to be in 3-6 months versus 10 years. Why? Maybe because that is what I did and do and it worked? LOL.
  • Gather Data: You gotta know your metrics to take your practice to the next level. How do you know if what you are trying or doing makes your practice better without the data?  A good EHR that can mine your data easily and accurately is really important.
  • Seek Expert Advice: Just as CEOs have advisors, optometrists can benefit from consulting with colleagues, mentors or industry experts. I have always had a consultant, and I have so many mentors and colleagues that I seek advice from. Just this week I asked two different questions to a large group of Vision Source colleagues. The helpful responses blew my mind!
  • Trust Yourself: Having faith that you can figure things out, and that you will find a way to make things work, is crucial to being bold and decisive.
  • Take Calculated Risks: I find thinking through a worst-case/best-case scenario helpful. This might not work for everyone, but I like to see what the worst thing that can happen is. Even get crazy with how bad it could be! Then, can I fix it? Can I overcome it? Can I survive it? My answer is almost always yes, which enables me to move forward with a decision and an action plan.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Wow, I think some of my biggest mistakes helped me more than anything else I have done. Knowing that my mistakes eventually helped me encourages me to not worry so much about making a mistake, and move forward with something new.  

In conclusion, decisiveness is not just a trait that successful CEOs possess; it’s a quality that can elevate any profession, including optometry. By staying informed, defining your mission and goals, gathering data, seeking advice, trusting you can overcome, taking calculated risks, and learning from mistakes, you can apply the power of decisiveness to optimize your optometric practice.

So, take a page from the CEO playbook and start making confident decisions that will take your practice and career to the next level.

Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas, and the Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business (ROB). To contact her:

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