How to Become a CEO

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The job of a chief executive officer may have the glamor of power and leadership, but it is also demanding work and carries tremendous responsibility. There are few CEO positions open at any given time at major companies, but you will increase your odds for landing a CEO position if you fully understand the scope of the job and take the necessary steps to get the qualifications you need to succeed.

Becoming the CEO of Your Own Company

Although it is most common to hear about the CEOs of large corporations, small businesses have CEOs as well. Not every small business chooses to bestow the title of CEO on its manager or owner, but the person who handles major company decisions holds a position equivalent to that of a CEO regardless of the exact job title. In addition to directing practical operations, the CEO or owner of a small business makes strategic decisions and takes responsibility for the big picture and the overall direction of the company. To become CEO of your own company, you must start or buy a business, and then assume the primary managerial role. Your responsibilities will include overseeing all aspects of the company including finance, human resources, marketing and planning. Your direct hands-on involvement in each of these areas will depend on the size of your company, the capabilities of your team and your ability to delegate.

Becoming the CEO of a Major Company

There is no single formula for becoming the CEO of a large company, but the process usually includes higher education such as an MBA and experience that begins with working your way up from a lower-level, less prestigious position. Board members at 79 percent of Fortune 500 companies hired internally for CEO positions rather than choosing external candidates. Personal traits can be at least as important as specific job experience for increasing your odds of becoming a CEO. Most importantly, diligence and perseverance are indispensable for developing the skills, knowledge and reputation you will need. Bill Gates spent over 10,000 hours from the age of 13 working on programming before becoming the CEO of Microsoft, the company he co-founded. Communication skills are also vital for a CEO, who must communicate the company's vision clearly and effectively.

Losing the CEO Job

If you are CEO of your own company, you are unlikely to lose your job. You have the sole responsibility to make your business successful, or not. If you are hired as CEO of a corporation, your tenure depends on your ability to work successfully with the board and keep the company in good financial standing. You can lose a job as a CEO by acting in scandalous ways that compromise your company's reputation, or by making unsound financial decisions. You may also lose your position if you are prone to micromanagement and do not let your staff do their jobs. An adversarial relationship with your board of directors can also be grounds for dismissal. It is much easier to lose a job as a CEO than to get one.


About the Author

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.