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What does it take to become a CEO?
The role of a CEO is highly coveted by motivated and career-driven professionals, right across the world. Considering the ever-evolving global market, the growing CSR responsibilities and expectations placed on organisations of today, what does it take to become a CEO? What are the challenges and the pressures of this role, and what are the essential skills that professionals need in order to excel in these leading positions?
Of course, with great responsibility comes great reward, but CEOs today are navigating an increasingly challenging landscape. Ultimately, these professionals are 100% accountable for the effective and profitable running of an organisation that may employ thousands of professionals and service huge economic markets. The network of people that a CEO has to answer to is huge, particularly in a global blue-chip company. However, the role of a CEO is one that can also be quite lonely.
The level of dedication, determination, and focus, that these professionals possess is very similar to that of elite athletes. Often quite single-minded in their ambitions to achieve their goals with a fierce drive to excel, this mindset is exactly why they do so well.
The challenges facing CEOs of today
Ultimately, within a large organisation, CEOs are faced with a plethora of conflicting priorities and challenges to overcome. The pressures that these professionals face can be quite easily overlooked by those who have not considered the scope of their responsibilities, but it is important to understand the extreme resilience that is required when operating at this level.
Business strategy and success
At the very core of a CEO’s role, their number one objective is to ensure the overall effective running and profitability of an organisation. They are responsible for the direction of the company, strategic decisions, and are accountable for the financial results of the business, making them answerable to shareholders.
Transformation and change
People, technology and organisational changes, are inevitable. In today’s rapidly evolving society, the pace of change means that if a business is not going forward it is going backwards. Ultimately it is the role of the CEO to determine the requirements for transformation and to steer the direction of these projects to drive a successful outcome.
Corporate social responsibility
Organisations have long been judged on their environmental impact, commitment to create change, and the way they engage with the communities they operate within. This image and the interaction that an organisation has with external stakeholders is crucial. There is an enormous amount of pressure from everyone who works for an organisation, from shareholders of the business to the consumers of the brand.
For example, in an extreme case, following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill whereby an estimated 3.19m barrels of oil leaked into the ocean in 2010, the CEO was accountable to everyone from fishermen to the president of the United States. While this is the most extreme, it highlights the importance of businesses to adhere to high levels of corporate social responsibility. Including supporting local charities through to minimising the environmental impacts of daily operations of the business.
Diversity and inclusion
Organisations within every sector face the challenge of building more diverse and inclusive working environments, which not only attract the best talent in the market, but also inspire loyalty and longevity amongst employees. Gender pay gap reporting and the movement to create gender parity in the business world has pushed D&I up on many CEOs’ agendas. Despite this however, PageGroup research has found that just 34% of C-level execs say that their company has a D&I policy and know what it is.
Work-life balance and self-care
In addition to the needs of the organisation and the wellbeing of stakeholders that the business interacts with, CEOs also need to ensure that they are taking proper care of themselves – just like everyone else. When competing to get to this level, work-life balance is often pushed to the wayside in order to beat the competition. Ultimately, many sacrifices are made by these individuals, and it is still important to ensure personal health and wellbeing.
What key skills and attributes do CEOs possess?
Despite the core differences in the levels of pressures and responsibilities amongst CEOs today, the individuals in these positions need to possess these core skills.
- CEOs are able to remain calm under pressure.
- They have the ability to see the longer-term view.
- These professionals are very strategic.
- Individuals in these roles are highly intelligent, ambitious, and focused, with a high drive to succeed.
- CEOs need to be inspiring to ensure that employees rally behind them and support their vision.
- Professionals need to be great at team building and this means bringing in the right expertise at the right times.
- CEOs are usually quite competitive and will push to make things happen.
In order to reach the top, it is likely that a professional at this level will have made significant sacrifices. Reaching the CEO role in any industry, for any business, will take hard work, dedication, and sheer determination. CEOs are elite professionals and bring a wealth of knowledge, and experience to the organisations that they lead. This is why it is so crucial to make the right choice when searching for and hiring CEOs.
If you would like to discuss your career options as a CEO, or you are searching for the right CEO to drive success in your organisation, get in touch for a confidential discussion.
Senior Partner, Page Executive
T: +44 1932 264056