HBR have released the results of a 10 year study into what the common traits are for how to get to CEO faster than average. Even if you don’t aspire to being CEO, it makes for some interesting reading with some good, practical advice on things you could consider in satisfying your corporate ambitions at pace.
Most (97%) of those who made it to the top in the shortest time followed one of three approaches (some more than one) and a mere 24% had “elite MBAs”. It was in these approaches that they acquired and developed the types of behaviours expected of CEOs, such as having impact and being reliable, adaptable, and decisive.
The three approaches are:
- Go small to go big: do a lot with something small and then scale eg. lead a smaller company within the company, start a new product line, etc.
- Make a big leap: even though they may not have been ready, they said yes anyway.
- Inherit a big mess: make a success of a poison chalice.
In each of these approaches, of course, the company probably had to reach out to the individual and offer them the chance to do these things. Which means there already had to be some credibility. So, any young and ambitious person’s first taskk is finding opportunities to demonstrate that any confidence in ability to execute would not be misplaced. Then then having the courage to take a deep gulp and go for any chance that is offered. And, finally, being known as someone who would say yes to something others would find terrifying.
As the authors of the article conclude, “(i)t’s not for the faint of heart. But if you aspire to top leadership, you might as well get used to it.”