Effective steps to becoming a CEO

Brought to you by the Villanova School of Business

Typically, the most senior executive within an organization is the chief executive officer. These individuals have the final say on all decisions within their company and are tasked with ensuring that their business continues to succeed and remain profitable. The CEO of any company need only answer to the board of directors. Consequently, the role of CEO comes with considerable responsibility and power.

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So how do you secure such a sought-after and lucrative role? What steps can you follow to rise to the very top of an organization? While there is no definitive path, here are some suggested actions if you wish to increase your chances of executive-level success:
 

1. Gain varied experience

Given that CEOs are in charge of every facet of a business—from marketing and finance to human resources and production—one effective way to prepare for the role is to gain varied professional experience. Entrepreneur contributor Tasha Eurich interviewed a CEO, Jacqueline Hinman, who explained that she moved between roles in varying areas of her industry. For example, she worked as an engineer, but then moved to marketing and project-management roles, gaining a multifaceted education and perspective in the process. In essence, if you are looking to become a CEO, take risks and apply for roles that may seem out of your comfort zone, as you’ll be unlikely to reach the C-suite if you specialize in just one area.
 
Hinman’s advice was supported by research conducted by LinkedIn, which surveyed 459,000 LinkedIn members, 64,000 of whom had attained top executive-level roles. The purpose of the study was to ascertain what qualities are needed to achieve executive-level success. One notable finding was that employees with experience in different business areas—for example, finance and marketing—were more likely to become executives. The study found that every time an employee shifted roles in terms of function—for example, moving from sales to project management—it worked out to be the equivalent of around three years of work experience.
 

2. Consider an MBA

Another important step to help you attain a CEO role is to study for an MBA degree. Writing in Forbes, Christian Stadler cited statistics which found that 40 percent of CEOs who head Fortune 100 companies have an MBA. The qualification is helpful because MBA programs are designed to teach students about the nuanced workings of every aspect of a business—knowledge that is key for the role of CEO. If you have already embarked on your career and are hesitant to return to education, consider enrolling in an MBA program online. Learning in this way enables you to work school into your busy schedule, at a time that complements your other commitments. In addition to providing you with vital knowledge, Stadler argued that securing an MBA is also highly advantageous because in a globalized world more people will have the degree. Without an MBA, you could find yourself behind the competition.
 

3. Work for a startup

Steve Tappin, CEO of Xinfu, offered tips on LinkedIn on how to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. One notable piece of advice that Tappin offered was to become involved with a startup—in its very earliest days, if possible. This is because the experience gained in this kind of work is invaluable; you will learn, in depth, what it takes to create a business and will likely become involved in an array of areas as the company grows. The connections you make during this time could also prove invaluable. Tappin explained that in the best-case scenario you would have played a role in establishing a new company, and in the worst-case scenario you can still walk away from the failed operation with a deeper knowledge of how to establish a company and what you need to avoid in the future to ensure success.
 

4. Be bold

While experience is of course important, making the journey to the C-suite is also aided by personality and temperament. Hinman, quoted in Entrepreneur, explained that assertiveness is important, as is a sense of vision for the organization and a desire to implement that vision. The best candidates for CEO “have to be willing to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘This is the direction we’re going,’” she stated. Assertiveness, however, must be balanced with the ability to communicate well with others and make crucial professional connections. Treading the middle ground between assertiveness and likability is key.
 

Villanova University can help

While there is no one right way to become a CEO, if you adhere to one or more of the above steps, you will likely find yourself in a more favorable position to make your CEO aspiration a reality.
 
As outlined above, one helpful step on your career trajectory to the executive office is to earn an MBA. The online MBA program from Villanova University can provide you with the world-class education you need, while allowing you to balance other professional and personal commitments. To learn more about Villanova University’s online program, taught by a renowned faculty, click here.

 

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