Whether you are still in college or are a recent graduate, you have your mind made up that you want to run a corporation one day. The only problem is, you have no idea how to become chief executive officer (CEO) of a company. While you can look at current and former famous CEO’s, you will only find a few similarities between them all. This is because there is no set path for one to become CEO. Rather, you need to have certain qualities and experiences so that you can increase your odds of becoming a CEO one day.
Education is very important to become a CEO. You might point out that there are a few CEO’s that don’t have higher education degrees and I would agree, but that is more the exception rather than the norm. The few non-college educated CEO’s that I could think of – Richard Branson and Michael Dell are rare breeds. Most of us couldn’t run a company without some form of higher education.
Most CEO’s have a degree in business, but the similarity ends there. CEO’s major in finance, economics, or management. There is no right or wrong field of study, just that you have a degree. Moreover, don’t assume you need a degree from an Ivy League college either. Again, the importance lies with the fact that you have a college degree and have good grades as well.
This shouldn’t come to a shock to most of you reading this, but you aren’t going to graduate college today and be the CEO next month. It doesn’t work that way. You have to prove yourself, and prove yourself over and over again. Whatever position you start out at, you have to master it. When you get promoted or apply for a better job at the company, you have to master it. When you become a manager or senior manager, you have to master it. Think about it: you wouldn’t pick someone who has no experience to run your company would you? Of course not. The chances are too high that the company would be run into the ground. By learning everything there is to know about the company and your industry, you make yourself much more valuable to the firm.
Understand that it will take years for you to move up the corporate ladder. Ideally, as you move up, senior management will peg you as a possible leader and begin to “groom” you for the position.
While education and experience are great, you still need to have the personality to run a company. You need to be a great communicator in order to become CEO. You have to be able to listen well, and then explain complex concepts so that anyone can understand them.
Additionally, you need to be able to lead and earn people’s respect. If you can’t lead a team of five people, how are you going to run a multi-billion dollar form with employees all over the world? With this also comes respect. If you co-workers don’t respect you, they will not allow you to lead them.
As I pointed out, having a good education, solid experience and a few key personality traits will help you in your quest to become CEO. But as I stated in the beginning, it is not going to happen overnight. It may take upwards of twenty years for you to become CEO. It is a lot of hard work, which is why there are only a small handful of people who can be considered as a great CEO. Sure there are people working as a CEO now that are average, but you want to be great, right?
Readers, what other qualities do you think should be added to this list?
This is a question I’ve always wondered about since I started at my company. Do I need to get an mba to eventually be ceo? I don’t think that’s the path for me, but you never know…
BTW, 2 other CEOs with college degrees were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The most important trait of a good CEO is having a vision for the company and sticking with it. Steve Jobs was my best example.
I agree with Krant, vision is what sets apart the truly elite CEO.
I think Dedication is important. You can have a vision, but if your’re not dedicated to the cause, It will never come forth.