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How to Become a CEO

Do you enjoy taking the helm and making the big decisions? Are you seeking to guide a company’s future and lead them to success? If so, becoming a CEO might be the right choice for you.

A CEO uses their expertise to make high-level, long-term decisions for their company.

Although the specifics may vary from business to business, ultimately, the CEO will be taking steps to enhance shareholder value and move the company into a more secure future. By delegating projects and initiatives to executive members and exploring opportunities for growth, a good CEO will enhance and enable their team to provide maximum value.

Having a solid understanding of profit and loss, keeping an eye out for acquisitions, and meeting or exceeding annual expectations is vital to make the high-level decisions required for this position.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for a go-getter CEO who is organized and has X amount of experience. In order for us to maintain our position as one of the top companies in our industry, we must have strong, innovative leadership. We’re searching for a seasoned CEO to take us to the next level. You should be an analytical and solution-oriented leader. You should be gifted with the ability to evaluate and analyze complex information. Of course, you should also have a natural desire to help lead the company to new heights.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • A minimum of ten years of management experience is required
  • Community involvement, public speaking, and public policy experience are strongly preferred 
  • A demonstration of strong business acumen
  • A type of leadership that empowers and enables
  • A solid collaborator and innovator with a knack for finding alternative solutions
  • A focused and calculated leader that has a desire to bring our company to new heights
  • An individual who can balance multiple tasks and play multiple roles effectively

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s (required)
  • Master’s in Business Management (preferred)
  • Executive leadership: 5 years (required)
  • Executive leadership: 10 years (preferred)

Required skills and qualifications

  • Financial and political acumen
  • The ability to link strategy and operational goals to company priorities and fiscal realities
  • An agile but structured leader that can remain nimble without sacrificing a plan’s framework
  • Inspirational leadership skills
  • Unquestionable integrity
  • A commitment to create a culture that never stops driving for improvement
  • Passion and dedication to the company’s mission

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s in a relevant business degree
  • Demonstrated effective executive leadership: 10 years
  • Experience maintaining and managing budgets
  • Experience with public speaking and community outreach
  • Experience in understanding and prioritizing company goals
  • Experience creating a culture of positive change with passion and commitment

Typical work environment

The CEO is expected to work in an office as part of a team. They often consult with executive leadership to effectively manage the company and maintain an accurate assessment of factors both inside and out. Expect to be switching roles between collaborative, delegatory, analytical, and promotional roles. Although technically an office job, they should expect significant travel and the occasional work from home.

CEOs usually keep regular office hours. They will occasionally need to work late or over weekends to meet deadlines. They should expect to be in meetings for a significant amount of their day.

Typical hours

As the CEO, your standard hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, and on-call.

Available certifications

As a CEO, there’s always room to give yourself an advantage and distinguish yourself from the pack:

  • Full Certified Manager Certification. This is the first step of the 3 tiered system to become certified. Managers seeking to step up into senior executive management and eventually CEO need to foster the drive and ambition necessary to continue moving up. Managers with 3+ years of experience who graduate will obtain the CertM to continue their path upwards.
  • Provisional Certified CEO Certification. For senior executives and newer CEOs attempting to take their careers to the next level, this certification allows for the training and certification necessary to help. Senior executives with 3+ years of senior management experience and CEOs with less than 5 years of experience can obtain this on their journey.
  • Full Certified CEO Certification. Since a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t quite work for such a position, there are separate tiers of designation designed to fit a more tailored description that better fits your circumstances. CCEO comes with the right to be called a “certified CEO” and can be achieved after 5+ years of CEO experience. Those who wish to pursue further training and education and stand out from the competition may seek a CCEO certification.
  • Certified Public Accountant. Another, less directly related, certification that many employers require is a CPA. This is a commitment to both serving the public interest, and operating in a code of professional conduct that lends integrity and competence to their decision making.

Career path

The most fundamental aspect of becoming a CEO is establishing your ability to manage and lead. After all, if you’re guiding an entire company with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people, you’ve got to be able to properly manage, delegate, and oversee all the moving parts of the company effectively. Aside from proving yourself capable of leadership, you must understand the company, both externally and internally, and the market that company is in. 

If the best manager doesn’t understand the product or service they provide, they’re going to struggle to provide solutions to the problems they’ll eventually face. Finally, being structured and analytical is a vital component of a competent CEO. Having any combination of experience in finance and multiple years in leadership positions will make you a stand-out choice.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-1011

2020 Employment292,500
Projected Employment in 2030275,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 6% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift16,800 decrease

Although companies are constantly coming and going, there is, at most, a single CEO for each of them. Many businesses have closed down or dissolved over the last few years, and with them, many CEOs have lost their jobs. Some companies are also foregoing the CEO position altogether.