It is the dream and the hope which makes us leave no stone unturned to achieve what we desire. Desires can be many and different, however, there is something that every Corporate dreams at least once in their life; it is to become a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a famous and established organisation is no less than becoming a powerful leader in the country. His or her decisions for the organisation can have a ripple effect in the business ecosystem and felt directly or indirectly by thousands and millions. CEOs also become top-role models for many including the MBA aspirants. So how does one reach those heights?
Like Rome was not built in one day, taking up a role as CEO is also a gradual process and it is the years of hard work, diligence and dedication that trickles down to that revolving chair at the end of the teak wood table.
“A hot iron is hammered a lot of times before the desired shape has been achieved.” The same holds true while selecting a CEO for an organization. The board generally puts the potential candidates in a ring of fire, where one has to outperform others to get positioned as a CEO. The responsibilities of a CEO is immense, in the literal sense, the entire business functionality lies on his or her shoulders. Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo with her visionary abilities and business acumen steered the company through the 2008 financial crisis. Under her tutelage, the revenue of PepsiCo grew more than 80%, outperforming her peers and adding a new billion-dollar brand almost every other year. From being a simple Indian woman she became one of the most powerful stalwarts in the business world.
So what makes these leaders different from normal professionals?
If one analyses the background of the global CEOs, it can be found that a majority started off on a strong footing by having few years of work experience and then pursuing an MBA from the A-list business schools. According to Fortune-
About 40% of S&P 500 CEOs have an MBA, in any given year. It is, by far, the degree with the most representation among such executives. Between 25% and 30% of S&P 500 CEOs have another type of advanced degree, like a PhD or law degree.
Apart from receiving a quality education, a strong alumni network and a well-recognised brand value have been the source of motivation for enrolling and getting a degree from a prestigious business school. Near about 15 per cent of Fortune 100 CEOs were part of the fraternity, which established a strong network taking them beyond their illustrious career and alma mater.
With the business’ going global, multi-tasking has evolved as one of the sought after thing. The gamy between the business and technology has opened up new horizons, where a CEOs with knowledge in both business and technology is more preferred. As more of data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc., are being incorporated into the system, a leader ought to understand the domain beforehand to successfully oversee the operations and implementations of it into the core business. It has been noticed that selection committees often see the potential candidature amongst professionals with an engineering background to lead the organization. An indirect proof of this can be found that E-commerce giant Amazon and Flipkart have recruited more MBA students with an engineering background and their focus for this campus hiring season will be on Artificial Intelligence.
Big organisations prefer internal selection for the topmost position over hiring a new candidate from outside. Researches indicate that 79 per cent of Fortune 100 companies chooses their CEOs from their leading professionals and the percentage surge by 10 per cent (89%) when the veteran companies who had been in business for more than 100 years.
Prior to becoming CEOs, these professionals had put their best endeavour and invested their time to gain experience in the various roles that the company had to offer. Moving across verticals proves to be quite beneficial as it prepares one to move out of your comfort zone and also understand different functions in-depth. Majority of the CEOs come from the operations end. Managing operations can bring a lot of clarity on the condition of the organisation and where it is heading to. Since an organisation is composed of the various sections, unless the CEO has a complete understanding of this, it will be cumbersome to lead the organisation in a specific path.
Nearly 32 per cent of the CEOs have experience in the finance domain. They were Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) prior to becoming a CEO. Their job entailed communicating with the shareholders, making financial planning, strategies, etc., which are very important skills that a CEO should possess.
Not every successful professional is a leader. It is the leadership that sets a CEO apart from others in the top of the league. A CEO has to be a visionary and one who knows to manage all the different sections of the organisation with his smooth leadership skills. Even though a CEO might not be owning a company but he should feel it as his own. He should be determined to dedicate his life to his organisation, this becomes imperative to the company’ growth. These are various qualities that the board members look for in a potential CEO.
It is well-known fact that even Bill Gates coded for close to 10,000 hours before finally founding Microsoft. Narayana Murthy worked in Paris and Pune after his post graduation from IIT Kanpur. In 1981, Murthy co-founded Infosys with six other software engineers with Rs 10000 borrowed from their spouses. He steered it over the next two decades as its CEO until 2002. Over the years, Infosys grew into a global software and IT services firm, becoming the first Indian company to be listed on an American stock exchange.
While there are no set parameters, however, possessing these traits as described above and being committed to achieving career goals would brighten your chances of becoming a CEO.