Columbus CEO celebrates its fifth class of CEOs of the Year. Composed of a self­made restaurateur, a fearless young director, a pair of spirited entrepreneurs and a forward-thinking library executive, this class of leaders has an unwavering sense of purpose.

What makes a strong leader? Ask executives, shareholders, employees and customers, and they'll cite various characteristics. A handful of traits come to the fore.

Strong leaders are decisive. They are empathetic. They are creative. They deliver results. They maintain an unwavering sense of purpose-even as they occasionally change course. They are visionaries.

Those qualities and more are reflected in the leadership of the five winners and nine finalists of the 2015 CEO of the Year awards. This year's award recipients were among 39 executives nominated by area chambers of commerce and nonprofit leadership organizations. Winners and finalists were ultimately selected by respondents of the annual Central Ohio CEO Survey, conducted by the Capital University School of Management and Leadership in partnership with Columbus CEO.

A pair of entrepreneurs who are channeling the success of their Small For-Profit distillery into a collective effort at strengthening the craft spirits industry in the state of Ohio. A self-made restaurateur who has led his Large For-Profit company to unmatched local success and nationwide growth on the strength of his people-first values. A young director who has advanced her Small Nonprofit organization with a fearless drive to focus others' passions around a common mission of animal welfare. A forward-thinking library executive who has piloted his Large Nonprofit system to new heights in community service and technological advancement.

These are the visionaries steering the Columbus region's leading companies and nonprofits. They're relatable and accessible-regular people doing the work they feel called to do. In these pages and in a special online segment in which they discuss their "best mistakes," these winners share insights into their daily professional lives and consider what it means to be a strong leader in 2015.

Congratulations to the fifth class of CEOs of the Year.