How does a person get to be the boss? What does it take for an ambitious young person starting a career to reach upper rungs of the corporate world-the C.E.O’s office, or other jobs that comes with words like ‘chief” or ‘vice president’ on the office door? The fastest way and the easiest way is by owing your own business, as a successful CEO.
The answer has always included hard work, brains, leadership ability and faith But in the 21st century, another less understood attributes seems to be particularly important. To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows.
It helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.
Successful CEO Get Involve In Some Nonlinear Career
George Kurian was a young engineer at Oracle in the early 1990s, helping build database software. Then a manager pushed him to break out of his software engineering silo and see what it was like to deal with potential customers.
That’s when things got interesting.
“I had built a set of technologies I thought were groundbreaking,” he recalled recently. “I went into this meeting expecting I was going to bring my engineering skills and wow this customer with our amazing technology. She asked, ‘Who built this piece of software?’ and I said, ‘Yes, that was me.’ ”
Her next comment, though, wasn’t what Mr. Kurian expected at all.
“She said, ‘You have no idea what my day looks like,’ ” Mr. Kurian recalled.
The software didn’t solve the problems the customer actually had. The valuable lesson for the young engineer? Work that seems impressive on an engineering level isn’t always what will most satisfy paying clients.
As a product manager, Mr. Kurian added sales and marketing and team management to his engineering background. He later did a stint as a strategy consultant. Which he recalls as a crash course in quickly synthesizing information about unfamiliar situations. He considers the combination of all of these areas a key to his path to becoming chief executive of NetApp, a data storage company with a $10 billion market value.
Personal Characteristics Of A Success CEO
Selection committees need to examine the full package, meaning both personality and track record will be taken into account. Recent research by Egon Zenher goes a step further. In a survey of 800 executives, 78% stated that a person’s track record is actually a poor indicator of future success, while 87% believe that personal traits explain the difference in performance between good and great.
Considering how difficult it is to measure personal traits. This is not necessarily reflected in the decision of who will be appointed. After all, if a CEO decision turns out to be wrong, the members of the selection committee want to deflect the blame. Still, even during the gruesome climb to the top, some personal characteristics are helpful.
On top of the list comes personal drive and ambition. Climbing to the top translates into stress that not everyone is cut out for combined with extremely long working hours. Bill Gates, for example, spent 10,000 programming on a high school from the age of 13 years. Sears’ Edward Lampert lost his father at the age of 14, and helped to support his family by working after school and on weekends, while still earning good grades. In 2003, he was kidnapped in a parking lot outside his office. Two days after his release, he was back in the office to negotiate an important deal. It’s people like these that you’ll have to compete with for the CEO job.
At a time when every gesture and utterance can quickly be shared through social media, small gaffes can cause major harm to a firm. Not all future CEOs possess natural talent. So for some of them it comes back to hard work.
Building Connections With Other Successful CEO
The role of a CEO is a very human one, it’s about much more than just strategic thinking and business management. It’s about building connections and relationships both within the business and outside the business.
If you think about any good or bad manager you’ve ever had, the difference really comes down to how well they can build, maintain and balance a relationship on a personal and professional level.
As a successful CEO, this extends beyond just relationships with your employees, but also relationships with possible business partners, board members and stakeholders, too.
In your first few years of working on your business, you want to develop your networking and relationship building skills. You can do this by reading books, listening to podcasts, or attending workshops, but the best way to do it is by attending industry networking events and getting first hand experience of building real relationships.
Beyond fine-tuning your ability to build connections at these events, you never know, you might just meet the board member who ends up hiring you as their next CEO