How To Become a CEO (With Tips and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

CEOs are responsible for leading an organisation and making strategic decisions that can help a company grow. They use effective leadership skills to set an example for staff members and create a positive work environment. If you're interested in pursuing a career that involves hard work, dedication and leadership, then learning how to become a CEO may be beneficial for you. In this article, we discuss what a CEO is and provide a list of steps that you can take to become one.

Related: What Is the CEO Role in a Business?

How to become a CEO

In order to become a CEO, it's common to begin in an entry to mid-level position. Then you may advance into a CEO role. While it sometimes takes years to become a CEO, you can become one regardless of your age. For example, Ali Kitinas is the youngest Australian CEO at 16 years old. Here are the steps that you can take to become a CEO:

Please note that none of the individuals mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The first step to becoming a CEO involves earning a bachelor's degree in a field that relates to business, like business administration or management. While you're completing your degree, you may strengthen the important skills that CEOs have, like multitasking, communication and decision-making. Having a bachelor's degree can help you earn an entry-level job, which may help you achieve career advancement.

Try participating in extracurricular activities while in college. This may help you learn how to handle several responsibilities at once, which is a valuable skill for CEOs to possess. Consider taking part in clubs or organisations that are business-related, where you may learn about standard business operations. Many clubs allow you to run for board position, which typically include a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. Consider running for a board position to build your management skills and gain experience in a leadership role.

2. Gain an entry-level position

Upon earning your degree, try earning an entry-level position in your field. While in this position, you can grow your network and build valuable skills that you may use as a CEO. Try familiarising yourself with standard practices and protocols in your field, since CEOs typically have extensive industry-related knowledge. While working in an entry or mid-level position, try observing board members or management to better understand their leadership techniques and management styles. You may adopt these techniques into your own work routine, which may develop your leadership skills.

3. Earn a master's degree

In order to achieve career advancement, earn a master's degree in business administration. To find a master's program that's a good fit for you, contact different colleges or look online to discover different program requirements and schedules. Many master's programs allow you to attend as a part-time student, which allows you to continue working while completing your degree.

4. Seek advancement

Try advancing to a higher role within the company that you currently work at, or try finding advancement at a different company. By advancing to a higher position, you can grow your experience and familiarity with a variety of duties. You may also develop a more diverse skill set, which may be useful when pursuing a CEO position.

5. Look for board positions

Once you gain sufficient experience, look for open board positions that you can apply for. By working in a board position, you can prepare yourself for the duties and responsibilities that you might have as a CEO. While working in a board position, look for open CEO positions by speaking to professionals within your network or by researching using online resources.

What is CEO?

A CEO is the chief executive, meaning they are the highest-ranking member of an organisation. A CEO's specific duties vary by company but generally, they are responsible for making corporate-level decisions for the direction, operations and resources of the business. Shareholders elect the CEO to be the face of the company and the main contact between the board of directors and the company.

CEOs in smaller companies may take part in the hands-on day-to-day activities needed to run the business. At the enterprise level, they are responsible for making strategic high-level decisions. In both settings, the CEO influences the business's culture, vision and goal-setting behaviour. Here are the duties that a CEO may complete during the day:

  • Communicating with shareholders about a company's financial health

  • Assisting in developing a company's sales and operational strategies

  • Remaining aware of market trends and financial expansion opportunities

  • Analysing the work of other leaders within the organisation to provide feedback and identify areas of improvement within the company's leadership

  • Creating initiatives and strategies to further the company's mission

Tips for becoming a CEO

Here are some tips to help you pursue a career as a CEO:

Network

To become a CEO, it's useful to grow your network. Try growing your network with numerous business professionals in a variety of industries. Having a large network may help you advance in your career and learn about different career opportunities. To grow your network, consider reaching out to professionals at your company, or join a professional society for business professionals, like The Australasian Society of Association Executives.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

Seek challenges

The next step to becoming a CEO is to gain experience. Those that make it to the CEO level actively seek out challenges that stretch their technical knowledge and leadership capabilities. Taking on challenges you may feel you aren't ready for can vastly improve your skills and personal strengths. Use every opportunity as a chance to learn and push you closer to your CEO goals.

Business environments that are hurting financially or structurally will test your managerial skills, expand your knowledge base and offer an unmatched educational experience. Sometimes opportunities can look like setbacks in your career path. Consider how the skills you will gain from this new opportunity fit into your strategic path toward CEO.

Related: What Does a Treasurer Do? With Certifications and Salaries

CEO salary

The average national salary for a CEO is $149,730 per year. The salary of a CEO may vary depending on the CEO's location, skill level, experience and education. For example, a CEO who has a degree in higher education may have the chance to earn a higher wage than a CEO with an undergraduate degree.

CEO skills

Here are some important skills that CEOs possess:

Leadership

It's essential for CEOs to have exceptional leadership skills to oversee and lead an organisation. CEOs may use leadership skills to create a positive working environment, which may boost employee morale. They may also model their behaviours to employees and act as an example of an attentive and strong leader.

Related: 10 Leadership Theories You Can Apply in the Workplace

Decisiveness

Decisiveness is the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively given the facts. As the head of an organisation, you may face deadlines and inquiries from a myriad of internal and external sources. The ability to make decisions quickly will help keep the business on pace with its goals. Decisiveness is a skill that comes with confidence and experience.

As you work your way through your career, you can encounter different scenarios that test your ability to make the right decision in a short time. Expose yourself to more opportunities that test your skills to stretch your knowledge and build confidence with each choice.

Teamwork

It's important for a CEO to have excellent teamwork skills and team-building experience, since a business can only move forward if staff, management and board members can work together effectively. The CEO is responsible for delegating tasks and creating teams to accomplish the business' strategic goals. The ability to move between teams gives a broader spectrum of how the company is functioning.

Build this skill by listening to the ideas of others and responding appropriately. Working well in teams helps to build lasting relationships and loyalty which is key to moving the business in the right direction.

Related: 14 Reasons Why Teamwork Is Important in the Workplace

Problem-solving

It's important for CEOs to have effective problem-solving experience and skills. Often, staff members and management may seek advice from the CEO on how to solve a problem. CEOs may use problem-solving skills to identify the cause of the issue and provide guidance on how to resolve it.

Communication

Communication is a vital skill for a CEO because it is the highest level of management in the company. The ability to communicate effectively will help others understand any decisions the CEO makes.

An organisation may have many people with diverse personalities and backgrounds. Understanding how to navigate between different working and communication styles will improve communication as a whole across the organisation and make the business more successful. Proper communication helps to build the relationships needed for great leadership.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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