When asked to name high-profile CEOs, the majority of us can easily think of a list with a multitude of names: Arianna Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Susan Wojcicki. Yet, when asked to name even a few COOs, most people blank. That’s because chief operating officers are often the unsung heroes of the workplace. Their nebulous roles make them the least understood position in business today.
The internet is flooded with articles about how to be the next great CEO, but not much is written about the unique traits of COOs. Why is that? Perhaps because their roles are less understood and more diverse, and their responsibilities often fluctuate from company to company. Keith Rabois, the former COO of Square, compares the role of a COO much to that of a doctor in an emergency room—fixing what’s broken, assessing problems to determine what’s minor and what’s fatal, and being able to communicate with a variety of people.
A company’s success hinges just as much on the shoulders of a COO than its CEO. They strategize revolutionary approaches that keep their company one step ahead of the competition, they communicate with investors, and they help cultivate a winning culture for employees. They quite literally do it all. But it takes more than just business savvy to be a successful COO. When we talk about notable chief operating officers, we must also talk about these three traits:
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