But what exactly does a CEO do?
CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer, and they are in charge of the overall management of company operations and resources. Also known as the President or Managing Director (MD), CEOs are the most senior executive, a.k.a the highest-ranking person in a business. Although a CEO draws on their team's expertise when it comes to making executive and business decisions, the final management call is up to them.
Your future CEO duties will depend on your industry. You may be a more hands-on type CEO in a smaller company or perhaps a high-level executive in a larger company. In general, a CEO will determine short-term and long-term strategies for a company in line with their vision for the business. They communicate with the board of directors, shareholders; and represent the company to the public. Becoming a new CEO doesn't just expand your portfolio with a new job title; a CEO tries to create a successful company built to last.
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CEO job qualifications
There is no direct career path to becoming a CEO, but commonly, CEOs come with a formal educational background and hold one (or many) business leadership positions. An important stepping stone on the path to executive roles is a bachelor degree in business, management, law, economics, or a bachelor degree in the industry you plan to lead. Although the necessary business qualifications can vary depending on the industry, generally, CEOs will have at least five years of management experience under their belts.
It goes without saying; that budding executives should have a thorough understanding of business finances and be somewhat tech savvy. You shouldn’t be climbing the corporate ladder with zero understanding of how cash flow or excel work. Keep in mind the number of degrees they hold does not determine the career path of most CEOs, but instead, through the leadership experience and hard skills they develop along their journey. So what are the key skills of a CEO?
Key skills of a CEO
Leadership is an obvious skill for aspiring business executives. But, what does a notable leader look like? You must be a capable leader who can analyse problems as they arise and have the courage to make big decisions. A good leader is able to manage a team with impeccable organisational and communication skills. If you want to be the spearhead of an organisation, you must be a motivated team player. A leader ready to reach new heights is always keen to collaborate, take input from their team and know how to delegate. A business will never grow if you don’t give up some control.
To gain more leadership experience, seek out new roles to diversify your portfolio and challenge yourself. Join the corporate board, participate in development training or volunteer in nonprofits. You need to present yourself as a problem solver with experience and a wealth of knowledge. If your current job isn’t doing that for you — it’s time to start making career moves with your CEO goal in mind.
To make it into the corner office, you need the respect of your peers. To be a CEO, you need to build connections and relationships within the business, between stakeholders and influential figures outside of the company. You should effectively maintain these relationships through all the ups and downs of life using solid people skills. Sure, there are plenty of CEOs with little to no interpersonal skills. But, I wouldn’t classify them as successful CEOs. A successful CEO needs to be able to handle the needs of a whole team while inspiring them to work hard. And, in an ever-increasing digital world, never underestimate the power of a firm handshake. Throughout your career, take all the network opportunities available to you; within your organisation and with other industry leaders.
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You have to be willing to put in the hard yards to make the big bucks. A strong work ethic is vital along your career path to CEO. Be open-minded. Look at your journey so far and note each of the lessons learnt from your stumbles; chances are you won’t make them again. Practice remaining calm under pressure. Learning patience and stress-management techniques now will serve you well into the future. Remember, you will have to become an exemplar of company beliefs and values and set an example for the team with a service-driven mindset.
Another asset to have in your journey to becoming CEO is finding a mentor to learn from and keep you inspired — someone who has gotten to where you want to be. Along with quizzing them on how they got to executive status, note how they act in their position, and conduct meetings. How do they give tours of their office or worksite? How do they rally their team up or maintain client relationships? Start getting into the mindset of a CEO as early on in your career as possible.
If you have been working hard on developing these skills throughout your career already, you might be wondering — I can’t seem to break through the ceiling and become a CEO. What's next?
I’ve helped countless CEOs, executives, and ambitious leaders push past their current success to reach new heights. I work directly with these executive leaders, so I know what it takes to reach their status. If you would like me to help you along your career path to CEO, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.