It’s important to map out a career path and attain the right qualifications to fast-track your success. As with any leadership position, it’s less about the job titles you hold and more about the skills and experience you collect along the way.
We share the information you need to prepare you for a CEO-bound career, no matter where you’re at in your journey.
Maja Paleka is the co-founder and director of Juggle Strategies, a consultancy firm that works with organisations to define the future of work. Not only is she in a CEO role herself, but she also works with CEOs across various organisations on a daily basis.
“At a high level, it’s the CEO’s responsibility to look after the health of the organisation,” explains. “In privately-held organisations, the CEO needs to ensure that the business is profitable and growing in the right direction. To do that, you manage the financial and overall performance of the organisation.”
However, a CEO’s responsibility to look after the people inside the organisation is just as important.
Paleka explains there are several traits that you need to succeed as a CEO.
“There are often biases attached to what people think a CEO should look like. Typically, people think that a good CEO is confident and extroverted, but that’s slowly changing.”
“There’s a lot to be said for a CEO who can inspire their people and who is comfortable with making decisions. But also, a CEO is someone who should value and understand people. If you can do this, then you’re much more likely to deliver results, particularly in times of uncertainty or instability.”
This ability to understand people is also what helps a strong CEO build the right team around them. While the CEO’s role is important, if they don’t have the right team to support them, they carry a greater weight of the burden on their shoulders.
Lastly, Paleka says that another strength of many successful CEOs is self-awareness.
“As a CEO, you need to know where your strengths – and your weaknesses – lie. If you have the self-awareness to know that empathy isn’t your strength, you can make sure that you surround yourself with people that can help you when you need it.”
If you think about what a CEO is responsible for day to day, there are many other skills you’ll need. These include:
As a CEO, you will also need to quickly develop trust with your team, board of executives, and any other stakeholders. This trust is key to how successful you’ll be in your role.
What’s driving you to learn how to become a CEO? That’s the question Paleka encourages you to ask yourself. Is it because you really want to be a leader and have an impact? Or is it because you think it’s the right job to aspire to?
“A CEO job is incredibly tough and stressful, and you need to make a lot of sacrifices,” she says. “I don’t think many CEOs look back on their career and say they did it for the power or the money. They’ll often say they did it to make a difference and evoke positive change.”
While it can be one of the most challenging jobs, it can also be the most rewarding.
If you’re ready to learn how to become a CEO, there isn’t just one path to follow. The journey you take needs to align with your values and strengths. It may involve a career change from where you are or further training and qualifications to build up your skill base.
CEOs don’t generally progress through an organisation in a straight line. They often start with an undergraduate qualification and then work in a range of different roles and industries. Then, they go on to complete postgraduate degrees to hone their leadership and strategic capabilities. A CEO doesn’t shy away from challenges in their career. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the key to growth.
To become a CEO, you’ll also need a strong professional network. You may do this by joining different professional associations or by building and maintaining relationships with the people you work with throughout your career.
Do you need a degree to be a CEO? Not necessarily. But it does help. Research has shown that approximately 20% of all CEOs have an MBA. It’s a common degree to acquire in order to become a CEO.
Paleka says that the benefit of an MBA is that it gives you a varied perspective.
“If you haven’t had the opportunity to get across different general management areas in finance, marketing and sales, then an MBA is a great idea. It gives you the broad base of knowledge that you’ll need. You can also build those experiences into your career and get exposure to different areas of the business.”
Paleka is an MBA graduate herself. She advocates for MBAs for aspiring CEOs because of the knowledge and experience you gain through the course. She knows firsthand the career benefits that come from completing an MBA.
“A CEO ultimately has to be a good general manager. But you also need an appreciation of how things will fit together, how operations will fit together with finance and how human resources and people fit together.
“When I started my MBA, I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were. Coming from an engineering background, I had never studied finance. As a CEO, you’re responsible for the financial health of the organisation. Gaining that understanding of corporate finance and accounting through my MBA was so important for me. It gave me exposure to all those areas of learning that are important as a CEO.”
The value of an MBA for accelerating your pathway to a career as a CEO is quite clear. There are the skills you gain, as well as the professional network you have access to through your studies and beyond.
The challenge for many people is balancing studies with an already busy professional and personal life. Today, there are many online MBA options. These online MBAs offer flexible delivery methods so you can more easily balance your study with everything else that’s going on in your life. They can also often be more affordable than a traditional MBA option.
As you define your path to a CEO career, consider how an MBA can help to accelerate your professional learning. With options to specialise in a particular area or give you strong generalist leadership knowledge, you can get the experience you need for the next step.
When you’re ready to start an MBA, we’re here to help. With multiple online MBA options available, we can guide you through the available programs so that you can choose the right one for you. Want to discover more about how an MBA can help you on your path to becoming a CEO? Start your journey with us.
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