Are you interested in becoming a CEO one day? The widely accepted path to CEO is to attend a prestigious business school and build a powerful network. I did none of that and still managed to assume the top leadership role at a national healthcare company. I learned business skills on the job such as P&L management, forecasting and budgeting. But what helped me the most besides my hard work and ambition were the softer skills that not only made it easier for people to like me and work with me, but allowed me to manage others successfully and navigate the complexities of the workplace. (Certainly, we’ve witnessed many bad CEO’s over the years who have great business experience but none of the people skills, and they have failed their company, employees, and shareholders.)
Becoming a CEO doesn’t happen by accident. It begins first with the intention and passion to lead a company that aligns with your values. It often involves creating a strategic career plan for yourself to gather the necessary experience and knowledge to assume the top spot.
With all that said, doing an internal audit of your skills is the best place to start.
Here are 6 signs that you are CEO material:
1. You get results. When given a project, you are focused and driven to achieve successful outcomes. You aren’t easily discouraged. You find solutions to reach objectives. You create and achieve realistic but challenging financial goals.
2. You inspire and motivate others. Beyond being a strong individual contributor, you achieve results by partnering and collaborating with others. People get excited about the work from your passion and dedication. It’s infectious. Your team is invested in the work which drives great results and keeps employees engaged and happy.
3. You’re curious. Great leaders are life-long learners. According to a PwC survey, curiosity is one of the most valuable skills a leader can have. Curious leaders don’t accept the status quo. They ask critical questions that stimulate new ideas and innovation. They are avid readers and are always looking to expand their knowledge base.
4. You’re confident but humble. You admit you don’t have all the answers and are open minded and driven to find the best answers even if they aren’t your own. You admit your mistakes and allow others to learn from their mistakes as well. People rise to the occasion and show up doing their best work as a result.
Angela Sebaly, co-founder and CEO of Personify Leadership and author of The Courageous Leader, adds that humble leaders are focused on the big picture of mission and team rather than themselves. According to Sebaly, ‘Leaders with humility engage us and give us a sense of identity and purpose.’
5. You demonstrate empathy. Empathy means having the ability to understand the needs and emotions of others. This allows you to connect and motivate others who relate to you as a human being rather than just a boss.
6. You communicate well. And you communicate well at all levels. You manage up, down and across and have the ability to clearly convey your message to stakeholders, colleagues, employees and customers.
If you want to be a CEO, my best advice is to learn to be CEO of yourself first. Own your ambition and talent. Build your portfolio of experience and develop your soft skills to achieve great results.
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker focused on women's advancement in the workplace. A former corporate executive and CEO, Bonnie is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, and co-author of Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women's Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage.
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