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How to Become a CEO of a Company and Be Great at It


As you move higher up the promotion ladder in your professional life, you keep aiming for the highest point. Quite naturally the highest point that a professional can target to achieve is the CEO’s chair. The Chief Executive Officer’s position is no doubt one of the most coveted and most sought after positions in the corporate roadmap. But the problem is there is only one CEO’s chair and many contenders. The problem then is how to become a CEO of a company and what are the special personality traits and qualifications must you possess to have the edge over your peers?

Well for that, it is important then to understand what exactly a CEO’s role in the company is if you want to know how to become a CEO. In many cases, the CEO might not be a founder or even a long time loyal employee of the company. Companies sometimes hire complete outsiders for this crucial role and let them add value from the huge bank of experience that they possess. Essentially you must understand the CEO or the Chief Executive Officer is almost the pulse centre of the firm. While he/she might not personally get the various elements of business done, they are among the key people who make it possible for a great plan to be implemented in a great manner.

Perhaps it is not wrong when a lot of people refer to the CEO’s position as ‘most coveted and least understood.’ Some of the key component of a CEO’s job includes

  • Creating strategy and setting direction for the firm
  • Creating a model code of conduct
  • Establishing cultures and values that you eventually identify a company with
  • Build a strong team to take up responsibilities and execute the game plan
  • Prioritize capital allocation and pay close attention to projects that need to be looked after

So a CEO, in short, plays multiple roles in one go. From conceptualizing the core concept to the final flawless execution of it, almost everything is the CEO’s responsibility. They are also responsible for formulating the team that goes on to execute the plan and inculcate the team spirit that is required for the job to be completed. They, therefore, handle pretty much everything from marketing, financing, strategizing to even PR exercises. The fact that the CEO of the company is the ultimate point person for credit and criticism alike makes the job even more for the CEO.

So if you are trying to grasp the basics of how to become a CEO of a company, it is very important to understand that there isn’t any rule book that can help you become a CEO nor is there any specific school that can help you achieve this target. Of course, there are some personality traits that surely help you to excel. The capability of being a strong leader and lead from the front no doubt is one of the key factors that can easily discriminate between a great CEO and a not so good one.

It is, for this reason, we have created a step by step guide for you to understand better how to become a CEO of a company.

Academic Qualification to Become a CEO of a Company

The basic first step in your journey of how to become a CEO of a company is no doubt all about academic qualification. While there isn’t any specific, straightforward degree that you can pursue, the fact is that most modern CEOs have a finance or accounts background. Well, you can always argue that in this generation of ever rising start-ups you can become CEO practically without a degree and even being a school dropout. While that might not be completely untrue, the fact is not all of you would go on to create your company and till you are a founder of your company, the chances of making it to this top position is extremely slow and labored and impossible without educational backing. A quick survey of the Fortune 100 CEOs would reveal that nearly half of the CEOs have a degree in business management, finance and other related subjects. A minuscule portion of them have degrees like Engineering and law, but that’s few and far between. So overall it won’t be wrong to recommend a finance related degree to an aspiring CEO.

Not just in terms of the choice of degree, if you want to make your mark as a CEO and keen on understanding how to become a CEO of a company, it is very important to be a consistently strong performer in your school. It is a good idea to complete both Bachelor’s as well as Master’s degree and then begin working. You need to be very focused in your studies and ensure that you are consistently gaining expertise and exposure in the specific area that you aspire to be in eventually.

But that does not in any way mean you cannot join any work till you get your degrees. The point is you also have many successful CEOs who have joined work after their undergraduate degree and gradually worked through the ranks and eventual MBA to reach their ultimate goal of becoming a CEO. Experience too plays a crucial role along with the specific college degree that a CEO might boast of. Therefore you can understand quite well that a firm educational background and a sound degree in preferably finance is almost indispensable in your journey of how to become a CEO of a company.

Focus On Finances As the CEO of a Company

A strong base in finance is almost indispensable for a CEO. It is only a strong finance foundation that can enable them to make strong decisions for their company and steer their company towards greater success. It is a good idea to keep the focus on finance matters and choose finance related subjects in your college. This is perhaps one of the best opportunities to pursue a major in finance related subject. Don’t get out of touch with your studies after joining work. Even when you are working make it a practice to continuously increase your knowledge in finance. For this, you must take advantage of any workshop, seminars and classes that you can come across.

There is no end to learning and one of the greatest learning on your road to how to become a CEO of a company is surely about the need to refresh and revive your overall learning curve continuously. If you take the example of any great CEO, you will be surprised to see how each one of them stressed on the need for continuous upgrading the knowledge base and refreshing your memory with a fresh boost of knowledge to keep it updated.

Networking Is Important If You Like to Become the CEO of a Company

In your journey towards how to become a CEO of a company, you must know that networking plays the most important role in a CEO’s life. Quite early on in their career, a potential CEO starts building their rapport in the industry. Whether they are in a seminar, workshop or plain business meeting, a great CEO is never hesitant about creating networking opportunities. Frankly, they make use of every available platform to fully take advantage of these networking opportunities.

For these networking initiatives, you do not need to join work either. Even when you are in college and aspire to be a CEO, you do attend many seminar and business gatherings and you can further your networking initiatives at all of these avenues.

As a student of financial matters keen to understand how to become a CEO of a company, it is a great opportunity to apply for internships. During your college internships, you do not just achieve exposure in a certain sector of interest but actively pursue these as potential networking opportunities. They also offer attractive options to master leadership skills and help you learn the various intricacies of working in a team.
Another interesting alternative for you could be volunteering to help charitable organizations and spending time in events where you get to interact a lot with business bigwigs. Needless to mention that this then can become a great networking route that helps you earn rich dividend. Don’t ever hesitate to meet and interact with local business leaders and political ones too. You never know the dynamics ad potential of these networking initiatives. They could help you open up opportunities at much unexpected corners of life.

Often the rapport established at these events could well be life altering experience for you and help you inch closer to your dream of becoming a great CEO.

Highlight Your Commitment Early On

Once you get a job based on the college degree that you might have majored in, it is important to subtly spread the message of your CEO aspirations. You must try to bring in a vibrant change and vigor to the entire office. Even within your team, you must look at taking up leadership roles and showcase a strong commitment towards bringing in greater good for the company more than your own personal gains.

Remember when they look out for potential CE candidates, the search is in general for passionate, zealous drivers of excellence and those type of candidates are not very easy to spot. You must take advantage of this opportunity and make your assets the biggest brand ambassador to take forward your CEO aspirations in a constructive manner. A good way to learn is to keenly observe the way the high level executives talk and behave in your organization. If you think necessary, you can even choose to make one of them your mentor to help your pursuit of how to become CEO of a company and also be great at it. The power of the CEO’s chair is not just in gaining it but retaining it too.

You Must Remain Flexible

While no school will teach this, you must remember that as an aspiring CEO, it is very important for you to remain open to a plethora of ideas and try out new and unique initiatives for maximum gain. From being open to possibilities of switching shifts and location, you should be ready for any kind of career changes to help you reach higher and higher.

For example, there could be 5 of you contending to become a CEO but the problem is it could be slightly odd location, and not many might be interested in going, and there is your opportunity. You are then probably superseding many peers and moving up on the communication ladder.

Also once you have been with a job for a significant while; it becomes important to regularly scan job listing for a potentially favorable jump in other locations. You must remember that while not everyone is an entrepreneur at 20, a lot of them develop the capability to deliver as entrepreneurs at 40. So it becomes a good idea to keep looking for jobs and gain experience to help you with the knowledge to understand what it takes to run your own company as a CEO. Remember that all CEOs are after all entrepreneurs at heart and at almost every point of their growth trajectory their understanding and passion like an entrepreneur helps them make a mark in the overall scenario. If you want to understand how to become a CEO of a company and also become competitive yourself, it is important to pounce on every opportunity that comes your way and make the most of it in every possible manner. A strong CEO is, after all, someone who doesn’t just make use of opportunities but also helps in creating them.

Personality Grooming Is Crucial

As you move ahead in your pursuit of how to become a CEO of a company, it is very important to pay cognizance to the need of personality grooming. Remember that no school, however, great it might be will train you with these. The onus is on you to see and learn.

As aspiring CEOs, you must try and emulate every personality and company you are working with. It could range from:

  • Being strong communicators and deal makers
  • Efficient managers
  • Never hesitant to share the company’s journey and story thus far with any potential player interested in your company.
  • Need to keep a cohesive vision
  • Present a well constructed strategy to employees
  • Will at ways to garner respect from fellow employees.

That said it is crucial to keep in mind that you could also join special classes aimed at developing your overall personality and making you better geared to take on the challenges of taking up this job of CEO. While aspiring for it is one thing but to actually execute it flawlessly once you get the opportunity is very important. In many ways, it also showcases your commitment and drive.

CEO Salary

Well, it is almost needless to mention that if you are looking at how to become a CEO of a company, the CEO Salary forms an important part of the consideration. It is common knowledge that CEOs are paid quite handsomely. The salary component also includes a significant chunk of bonus and stock options too at times. While the key elements and various components might differ, the CEO’s overall salary is anywhere north of $500,000 annually.

Salaries of the CEOs of Some Famous Companies

The median salary as per recent studies indicates that CEOs draw well over $747,000 annually and this is just the salary part of a CEO’s pay. When the Salary and bonus benefits are combined, it is a whopping $1,000,000 plus making them one of the highest paid professionals.

What is even surprising is the kind of appreciation seen in their overall pay structure in the past few years. US labor department studies and also surveys conducted by sites like payscale indicate that a CEO’s average pay rose by a whopping 5.5% in just one year to close to $11 million. In certain cases like that of the Liberty Global CEO, he registered a mind blowing 200% rise in the overall salary in just one year’s time.

However, one interesting factor in the CEO salary payout is the huge range that is seen. It is surprising that the lower end of the range starts off somewhere around $400,000 on the one hand. On the other hand, the highest payout range of this salary band crosses the million mark. That said a majority of CEOs surveyed across the US, draw a monthly salary close to $1,500,000 levels making it a hugely lucrative career option. For those who are driven by passion and a keen sense of earning a lot of money, this can be one of the best career options to consider.



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"Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right." - Henry Ford

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