How to become a CEO

We all dream and work to make it to the corner office. We make our plans and set our goals. Let’s look at what takes it to be a CEO. We understand a degree and relevant experience sets the bar. But apart from that there are capabilities and a vision which ensures the success of those few privileged ones, who attain that goal. As mentioned by Simon Baker the areas which define a CEO are vision, passion, leadership, decisiveness, managing politics, long-term view and ethical standards. The credibility to build a company or new things every day should remain the driving force.

The road to the corner office begins with identifying the principles of success and self-assessment. This includes setting the plan, architecture of key ingredients and getting started. Once the preparation starts its important to navigate the obstacles through dealing with the blind spots and reconciling the paradoxes of becoming the top boss. The journey to the summit would include taking risks, learning from failure, overcoming the dip, due-diligence and negotiating what counts. This is followed by the sustaining phase of finding wise advisors, sponsors and managing office politics with integrity. The fundamental areas that require focus are as mentioned below:

Personal effectiveness: The capability to navigate under stress situation comes from within. A combination of personal behaviours can be inculcated to suit the environment. Jeffery J.Fox in the How to be a CEO: Rules for rising to the top of every organization mentioned 75 points essential to be a CEO. It enunciates with owning a career to taking line jobs rather than a staff job, get and keep customers, spending time to think new ideas, making allies with the subordinates of the peers, stay visible and prepared to honour a senior’s request  and principally  be a credit maker and not a credit taker

Business intelligence: It imperative to understand the business from both macro and the micro levels. Build on the knowledge about the sector to which the company belong to , the services and products , skills , technology and every other influencing factors. Suppose, if the customer to a technology firm are into the banking domain, it needs to mitigate the risks accordingly. Banking stands directly susceptible to the stock market changes. Hence its spending on technology would get affected with market swings. Consequentially, the technology firm needs to scale up respectively to minimise the impact on the business cycle. Certain other areas including, identifying which part of the value chain does the business of the company belongs to, the direct and indirect competitors, a futuristic view to the area where the opportunity lies and in few years from now, consider which integration including backward and forward would facilitate the business. Keep some back-up ideas to support business at the time of emergency. Conceptualise an unique idea or a business plan which can appeal to the investors with rich returns and value additions to the current stakeholders and contributors. Know how to raise sponsors for your idea and find customers. If the company manages business with multiple currencies  and nations , its important to understand the contributing factors in those countries . Government regulation, political changes, financial condition and cultural aspects would require focus .Keep an updated knowledge bank to be referred at any point of time.

People skills: The leader is made by the followers. Therefore it’s essential to garner the skills of not just a path finder to the followers but an inspiration to them as well. As mentioned by Jeffery Fox, know everyone by their first names. Create a human touch through communication and never sent a nasty memo. Draw a line with superiors and never treat them as buddies. Make everyone feel special and treat them well.

Predictive prowess: Build in a knowledge framework which can help in predicting any high-impact change, response to the change and solution to it. Its important for the visionary to pioneer identifying the challenges. Every incremental change can be mitigated by early warning sign. 

Sustaining the office is archetypal once resumed. The cohesive team with a decision making culture would be important, vision beyond the first quarter would be imperative to sustain the success. Harvard Business Review article, Best performing CEOs in the world, debates that due to the economic troubles the short term thinking is no longer preferred over the long term ,which is generally defined as three years.  In addition to that it shares the list for the top fifty CEO, selected on the basis of hard metrics — the objective, cold reality of shareholder returns and changes in market value. Steve Jobs tops this list followed by Yun Jong Yon from Samsung electrics, trailed by Alexey B. Miller from Gazprom. The learning that we gain from such a report is that the success a CEO is determined by the impact caused to the business during the tenure.



  • Manny (8th grader)

    “Let’s look at what takes it to be a CEO.” If you don’t even have basic grammar skills then how are you going to teach people to become chief executive officers.

  • Error deeply regretted. I appreciate your feedback. Request you to share best practices and the techniques that can be learned to become a CEO. I look forward to read your reply.

  • Anonymous

    Wow nice post. Very useful information. Thank you for sharing…!