Journalist Adam Bryant is the man behind the New York Times’ long-running Corner Office column, Bryant has interviewed 585 CEOs over the last decade. He recently shared his key takeaways from the experience.

1. Applied Curiosity

Are CEOs Smart? Sure, but perhaps not the way you expect. Bryant noticed that most, if not all, express an intense curiosity about the world around them.”They tend to question everything, they want to learn how things work and they wonder how they can work even better, they’re curious about people and their stories.”

2. Comfort with discomfort

To thrive as a leader you must really like challenges.”I usually like anything that’s a problem. I like getting closer to the fire, “Arkadi Kuhlmann, CEO of the banking industry, explained in an interview.

3. Focus on the present

Yes, they have big goals, but they do not let these big goals get them out of time.Bryant argues that many people can be more anxious about the job they want than the job they do.This does not mean that ambition is under control, as he explains. “You shouldn’t be looking just to climb the ladder, but be open to opportunities
that let you climb that ladder,” Kim Lubel, the former CEO of CST Brands, once told Bryant, summing up this approach.

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