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How To Become a CEO: A Complete Guide

Kate William

9 min read

CEO(Chief Executive Officer) Sounds fancy and posh, right? Well, the title doesn’t justify the hard work, continuous effort, and consistency it demands. It is the highest-ranking executive a company has, and it sure brings in as many responsibilities. Whenever a person thinks about how to become a CEO, normally it’s because of the monetary benefits and other perks that it brings along with it, but there’s so much more to it than that. It has the benefits definitely, but it’s a tough road before it all becomes shiny.

As we know it, the CEO is the head of the corporation with a tremendous amount of responsibility and work under him/her. According to a website, 70% of CEOs don’t start their career to become a CEO from day 1. No doubt it’s a gradual and time-consuming process, but it sure is rewarding. Along with a huge paycheck, it brings a ton of pressure and stress. With years and years of consistent effort, focus, and dedicated time, the goal of becoming a CEO slips only a tiny bit closer to reality.

So, how to become a CEO of a company?

To start with, let’s jump on to the career requirements for the role of a CEO.

Get a Bachelor’s degree

For an aspiring CEO, the ideal degrees to go for are- Liberal arts, Business administration, and Public administration. 27% of the expectant go for an engineering or a Science degree and 14% go for Law for their Bachelor’s.

Master’s Program

Preferably an MBA degree works suitably well if a person is rooting for the position of a CEO.

Along with the MBA, it gives an extra edge to the portfolio if the person completes an internship and performs a study. It helps to get the necessary work experience and gain some valuable knowledge and practical skills.

Practical experience works best, as it is always good to know something backwards and forwards.

Gaining Experience Would Be Nice

In the beginning, it’s important to gain experience and to know the thick and thin through it all. Starting with the lower level and working the way up should be the ultimate goal. These are the things that are essential concerning this career. There are various practical and behavioral aspects necessary to know how to become a CEO.

How to become a CEO: 20 steps

If looked at coarsely, there are innumerable traits, but let’s just focus on these 20 for now, which if abided could set you on the track on how to become a CEO!

The Mindset

A person who is aspiring to be a CEO should be ambitious. It is very important to keep a sane and stable mindset with the ability to work relentlessly towards the goal.

Communication skills

How you talk to the people, remembering their names, their stories, and minute things, being able to convince a person, networking, predict their actions, and rising above your own emotions for the greater good, all comes under excellent Communication skills. But an introvert can struggle in this department.

Being able to read and own the room, will work as a strong personality trait and work for the benefit and will prove as a stepping stone.

People skills also come under this.

Leadership skills

The main job profile of a CEO comprises of running an entire company under your head, so leadership is a definite quality.

Making people trust and listen, and to see the complex problems and finding out the best solution is the main essence of it. Being able to keep your employees motivated and enabling a suitable work environment adds to it.

3 in 1 employees see effective communication as the number one leadership attribute.

Being sound with technical skills

A healthcare professional can not do the role of a software engineer, right? Hence, it is of utmost importance that the head of the company should be the most technically sound person in the room.

The decisions related to technology should be easily and wisely taken by the CEO.

Exceptional delegator

A CEO, being at the highest most and the most experienced position can do all the work, from sorting the files to making huge decisions all by himself, but the real responsibility of it all is to provide a set amount of work to the people assigned for it.

It will not only help the company or corporation grow but also make the employee dedicated to the mentioned work.

Assigning suitable tasks to suitable and deserving people should always be done.

Decision maker

There are innumerable decision-making processes in the daily life of a CEO and a person who wants to become one, has to have this quality because it’s an absolute must.

Every big and small decision can affect the growth of the company’s, and it’s important to take a step.

Being the head, a CEO should be excellent in handling the budgeting, efficient working, and cutting costs, all while making very little capital losses.

His primary goal should be to drive the company to a better place than it was and to drive the company in a profitable direction.

According to an article, decisive people were 12 times more likely to be high performing CEOs.

Calculated risk-taker

If the CEO is the person who decides the fate of the company, he should be the one who takes calculated and well thought out risks.

Playing safe and sound always has never brought success that breaks the ceiling. It is essential to bring risk to the table, to move forward.

Innovation and New ideas

An aspiring CEO should always welcome brand new ideas necessary to experiment and move forward and towards the future. Innovative ideas should be appreciated and executed when sought beneficial for the company.

Ability to create the culture

This is a personality trait that is very important. Creating a personalized culture in a company requires a particular set of skills and quirk.

A CEO should have the ability to create an environment that is both productive, work-friendly, and comfortable for the employees.

Saying “NO”

A Chief Executive should be the person who is always ready to take the hardest decisions for the greater good of the entire company.

On your ‘how to become a CEO’ quest, some truths can hit you hard. Like really hard. But you have to say no to those thing that you have to say no to. Saying no and to mean it should be an essential and powerful trait that should be possessed by someone reading this how to become a CEO blog of ours.

Learning from the past

They should be able to amend the mistakes and be good at not repeating them, as it can cost the company its reputation and name.

They should avoid past decisions that proved to be critical for the company.

Realistic Optimism

A CEO should bring practical and realistic optimism to the table.

A necessary boost of confidence and positivity is important to keep the employees and other benefactors at the company motivated and amped up.

Setting practical targets and an optimistic approach is thus primal.

Taking Initiative

Being the head, the principal task of initiating should be done by the CEO. Moving forward and taking people with him should be the ultimate and calculative goal.

Taking an initiative of the task himself will motivate the employees to work and move forward too.

Empathy

This is a trait that cannot be neglected because the leader of the company should be empathetic above all.

The understanding and sharing of the feelings are essential, otherwise, the corporation will become just a big box full of robots who are working together just for the sake of it.

Extensive market research & Speed of execution

The focus should always be on the “Now”. Along with a sound presence of mind, the work done should be accurate and up to the mark. Any delay in the decision making is a step back for any company. Also, the ‘how to become a CEO’ road to take a major turn when you’ve to do a thorough market research about your business.

To begin with, you can use an online survey software like SurveySparrow to do extensive market research. Analyze what’s in it for you in the market and proceed accordingly. Send customer feedback surveys and NPS surveys to identify the pulse of your target customers.

Have a vision and strategy

A growing and profitable vision for the company should be a mandatory mindset in the person’s mind who’s aspiring to be the Chief Executive Officer.

Leading the employees, shareholders, and everyone related to the company forward along with a boom in business should be the goal.

Operational and financial acumen

Both these qualities should be in abundance in a CEO. Sharp business acumen can turn an upstart from rags to riches, hence, its definitely needed for an executive!

Wisdom, hard work, and dedication

A quality that goes a long way – Wisdom. Being knowledgeable and with righteous judgment is a trait that’s apt for this profession.

Hard work paired with dedication works wonders and is an added boost.

Never to “fake it and make it”

Honesty is as necessary as it is important. Faking will never lead to success and productivity. Hence, faking it will not be the precursor of “making it”, never.

We can easily achieve timely benefits and temporary assets through these tactics, but a stable reputation is built from honesty and integrity rather than anything else.

Learning from every kind of person, styles, and situations

Learning should never stop. A CEO must be adaptive to new people, new environments, and new styles if he/she wants to keep up with the thinking of this present generation.

Phew! That is a lot to be present in a person who wants to understand how to become a Chief Executive Officer.

Now, since we now know the ‘Holy’ traits to be a CEO, it’s time to see some practical implications, but wait, there’s a twist! The CEOs we are going to talk about are not at all similar, in fact, they have explicitly different personalities than one another.

One is a tough, focussed one,  the other is a fashionista who wanted every girl to have easy access to makeup, and the last one is a shy guy with a calm personality, a brilliant mind, with top-notch leadership traits.

Let’s have a look at these 3 different CEOs, having one thing in common- SUCCESS

1)Steve Jobs – He has been both an inspiring and intimidating person at the same time. He started with a venture like “Blue Box” with Steve Wozniak, which enabled their users to make long-distance calls for free, and he never looked back after that. He exhibited an intense and obsessive focus for work, with a charismatic attitude and a passionate demeanor. His risk-taking temperament made him one of the best CEOs we’ve ever seen.

He had a few rules for him and for the people working for him-

  • Don’t aim below perfection
  • Have a vision
  • Develop  passion
  • Challenge your limits
  • Follow excellence and not money

2) Falguni Nayar (CEO of NYKAA) – After graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, she started her career in consulting with A.F. Ferguson & Co., after which she spent over 18 years working in Kotak Mahindra Bank as the Managing director.

She had a vision for creating an online platform for a beauty-focused retail business. As a result, she founded the website Nykaa in 2012, which has a business of over 750 million dollars as of today. With over 68 stores all over India, this brand is growing massively.

With an empathetic nature, she formed a work environment favourable for the employees and everyone on board.

With her intelligence, hard work, empathy, and powerful vision, she proved to be one of the most successful and hard-working CEOs in the present times.

3) Sundar Pichai – After passing out of IIT Kharagpur, he did his further studies in the US, and worked at McKinsey & Company.

He joined Google in 2004 and worked his way to be the CEO through sheer dedication, willpower, and hard work.

His ability to lead teams and people was noticed then and again by the top management. His soft-spoken, problem solving is known and appreciated globally.

The immense humility and a deep passion for technology that he possesses has made him one of the most successful CEOs out of the current pack.

Here’s an added motivation.

How to become a CEO: What do the successful CEOs have in common?

Hard-work, empathy and sheer dedication, and a vision to make their corporation go farther and farther.

The ability to work under pressure and handling stress comes with the job of a Chief executive officer of a company. With an experience of numeral years in the company, your ‘how to become a CEO’ journey would relatively be a smoother journey.

A CEO is also under the board of directors of the company, who represents the shareholders of the company.

They deal with even bigger questions such as –

What business are we in and what business are we not?

Other than to take the business to the greater heights, it’s also important for the CEO to determine the status quo of the company. The vision should be crystal clear regarding the company’s goals, which branch to pursue upon and which not to.

To shape the values of the company while maintaining and developing the brand status is an essential responsibility under a CEO’s management. Balancing the yield with the investment also determines the future of the company and is an important decision that is to be made by the CEO.

Now that we have discussed the career requirements, traits, and talked about 3 of the best CEOs, let’s jump on to the practical aspect of it all, the roles of the Chief Executive Officer.

  • On behalf of the company, employees, and workers, the responsibility to decide and communicate regarding them relies on the CEO.
  • The development of the company’s strategies, whether it being long or short term, should be the priority of the CEO.
  • The CEO of the company should test the work of other executive leaders with utmost importance.
  • The risks taken by the company should be monitored and minimized by them. And this falls within the moral responsibility of the CEO.
  • Strategic goals should be set that can be both described and measured. Achievable targets and goals should be set for the needed motivation and development of the company and the employees’ both.
  • They should maintain awareness regarding the competitive market and expansion opportunities.

How to become a CEO: Last, but not the least..

We saw it all, from the rigid processes set by Steve Jobs, to the comfortable and free working environment created by Falguni Nayar, everything brings us to a single conclusion;  No one is born a CEO, it can be learned, and the needed skills can very well be acquired with perseverance, patience, hard work, and sheer will. And we really hope SurveySparrow and its rich feature set helps you on your ‘how to become a CEO’ quest.

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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