I’m a CEO — This is the No. 1 Challenge I Had to Overcome to Get There

I’m a CEO — This is the No. 1 Challenge I Had to Overcome to Get There

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Deborah Sweeney102
MyCorporation.com CEO
June 20, 2024 at 9:42PM UTC

Do you think you’re ready to become a CEO? 

In an interview with the Center for Creative Leadership, Bill Pasmore, a CCL Vice President and Organizational Practice Leader, notes that becoming a CEO requires four key areas of growth for readiness. 

1. Experience.

 The CEO should have experience taking responsibility for profit and loss in a major business unit and understand how to work outside their home market. They should ideally have experience in other functions, such as finance and operations.

2. Personal.

The potential CEO should have core beliefs and values that align with the role. Additionally, they should possess a strong character and have the personal skills necessary to interact with others.

3. Network.

The CEO should have a strong, varied network of professionals outside of their workplace who they may turn to for help solving problems. 

4. Relationship.

A CEO understands how to handle professional and personal relationships. They can give constructive feedback, work through conflicts fairly and motivate others.

Beyond prepping for these areas of readiness, there are several unspoken challenges CEOs experience. This is especially true for female CEOs. I spoke with a few women CEOs about the challenges they faced in learning to become a CEO and how they were able to overcome these hurdles.

Overcoming gender bias

2021 is a landmark year for women in leadership roles. There are now 41 women running Fortune 500 businesses. It’s a record high, especially when compared yearly—only two women held these roles 21 years ago in 2000. However, there is still more work to be done. One of the most critical aspects of that work is dismantling the stereotype that men should predominantly occupy these leadership roles. 

Patti Naiser is the CEO of Senior Home Transitions. She spent decades working in various job sectors until she decided to start a business in the senior care industry. 

Early on, Naiser says that one of the biggest problems she faced was being put down because of her gender. Many people assumed that running a successful business was better suited to men and tried their best to bring down Naiser with their negativity.

Frustrated by these attitudes, Naiser overcame the negativity by focusing on her work. She would often remind herself that what others were saying was simply not true.

“I had to remind myself that the labels often thrown at females in leadership positions are untrue,” Naiser says. “I am not bossy; I am a leader. I am not difficult to work with; I want the job to be executed correctly.” 

Channeling her frustration into her work allowed Naiser to keep the business afloat and meet the needs of her clients. Today, she advises women pursuing a CEO role to stay focused, drown out the background noise, and never give up.

“Women are often scared to go after their goals due to the backlash that follows. The world will also try its best to bring you down,” Naiser explains. “Focus on your goals and one day, you will bring the world up to your level.”

Staying relevant on social media

This is an interesting challenge Katherine Brown, the founder of Spyic, brought up.

Now more than ever, there is an increasing argument for CEOs to be personally active on social media platforms. This helps increase their following, builds recognition of their business and makes them thought leaders in their industry.

The challenge, as Brown notes, is that CEOs are expected to be hip and trendy while maintaining a sense of professionalism. She explains that she overcomes this challenge by learning the dos and don’ts for each platform. 

Just as much as we must think before we speak, we must think before we tweet. “Every time I want to post or make a comment, I think twice and find its relevance. If it doesn’t make sense, then I won’t post it.” Brown says.

Working past criticism

When she was 14 years old, Olivia Zhang started an organization called Cancer Kids First. CKF’s mission is to help pediatric cancer patients experience a better childhood. 

Many people were initially critical of Zhang’s business. They would even belittle her decision, making her feel discouraged. She even lost passion for the foundation she dreamt of starting. 

Similar to Naiser’s story, Zhang did not let criticism or doubt stop her from pushing forward. She resolved the challenge by surrounding herself with people who always supported her. This helped motivate Zhang to keep with the vision she had for her organization. 

It also allowed her to find the self-confidence necessary to trust herself in accomplishing feats others doubted she could. In less than two years, she grew the organization from 100 members to 18,000 members.

Today, Zhang continues to put in the drive necessary to produce the best quality work each day. Her advice for women starting out, especially young women CEOs, is to trust yourself. 

“As Steve Jobs once said, ‘the people who believe they can change the world, change the world,’” Zhang says. “Ask yourself if you like leading, implementing your own ideas, and driving others forward. If the answer to all those questions is yes, you're ready to become a CEO! Take that leap forward.”

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This article was written by an FGB Contributor.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.

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