There was a new discussion started this week in our LinkedIn Group about signs of thriving CEO’s.  A member asked: “What are the top 5 signs of thriving CEO’s? Or in other words, in the current challenging environment, what are the keys for CEO’s to thrive vs. survive?”

During the past year, we’ve been asking chief executives exactly this question – what does it take to be successful? After surveying nearly 150 leaders, 5 keys to success emerged – factors that executives say are critical to thrive in today’s world.

Here’s the single most important factor: Develop and communicate a strong vision.

The ability to communicate a strong vision emerged as the most critical factor. Three quarters of the 146 chief executives we surveyed selected developing and communicating a strong and compelling vision as an important factor for success in their current position. And they believe it’s more important than the financial performance of the organization, the company’s brand or changes in the industry.

Many of those who commented on the LinkedIn discussion noted the importance of vision. And they’re right. Research shows that the ability to communicate a strong vision and effective leadership are linked  Leaders who convey a strong vision are rated higher by their bosses and coworkers on several important factors than those who convey a weaker vision – factors such as the ability to lead change, being dynamic, competence in strategic planning, being farsighted, inspiring commitment, being original, and having a strong executive image.

What does a strong vision look like? Strong visions share three characteristics – they are clear, challenging and ideological. They use clear, unambiguous statements. They use language and ideas that motivate people. And they communicate a general, fundamental, enduring ideal. Here’s a great example: PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin speaks about his vision for the company and how he communicates that vision.

Worried about your organization’s ability to weather the current financial crisis? Do a quick assessment of the company’s chief executives and think about the vision they’ve communicated via their memos, emails and casual conversations. Is it clear? Does it motivate and inspire you? If not, your leaders and the organization may be less well equipped to plan strategically for the future, inspire commitment from employees, and lead needed change. Ambiguity and uncertainty abound today. If you have a leadership role in your organization – as the CEO, the leader of a team or the manager of a project – follow the path set by successful leaders and communicate your vision in clear and compelling ways.

Stay tuned for the next success factor: Implement and execute successful change by gaining organizational commitment.

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