So You Want to be a CEO — Hone These Traits First

GettyImages-165493383-compressor1. Show that you can bounce back from setbacks and “remain focused in volatile times,” according to Forbes. Top companies, the magazine said, foster a resilient culture, but whether your current employer does or does not do so, you can individually raise your resilience quotient. A Forbes editorial recommended doing this in part by regularly perusing the blog Step Up Your Game Now, as well as by reading Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills For Performing Your Best Under Pressure – At Work, In Sports, On Stage, by Don Greene. An important sub-trait of resilience is the ability to find order in chaos, the Harvard Business Review noted. If you can do this, you find grappling with multidimensional problems invigorating rather than aggravating, and you are able to bring clarity to “quandaries that baffle others.”

2. Consistently look for the next challenge or opportunity, before it finds you. This is a viable barometer of your leadership potential, Entrepreneur reported. To develop and demonstrate opportunism, request additional responsibility, including leading projects and mentoring new team members. Pursue growth opportunities outside your organization—for example, at industry conferences and through partnerships or continuing education.

3. Exude self-confidence. Second-guessing your own ideas and/or placing them on the back burner so someone else can assume the reins may be polite, but it won’t get you far in the race to the CEO’s corner office. Neither will “qualifying” statements with such phrases as, “but I’m not sure.” Self-confidence, according to a “Lead” column in Inc., “is the basis from which leadership grows. If someone is afraid to make and commit to decisions, all the communication and empowerment in the world won’t make a squat of difference.”

“Self-confidence is the basis from which leadership grows.”

4. Have a realistic optimism. While self-confidence is critical, you must also train yourself to be confident without being delusional or irrational. Individuals who are realistically optimistic can also deftly pursue goals others typically might view as impossible pipe dreams (perhaps, even being named CEO) while simultaneously remaining cognizant of the many challenges that confront them and the difficulties they may encounter along the way, according to the Harvard Business Review.

5. Be subservient to purpose. When this happens, your professional goal is so profound that your life becomes measured by how much you contribute to furthering that goal, HBR noted. Your level of dedication to your work is a direct result of the “extraordinary, remarkable importance” you place on your goal.

6. Be willing to abandon the hero’s role. Most aspiring and current CEOs favor a “heroic” approach to leadership, accomplishing company goals by “knowing more or working harder than anyone else,” Mark McKergow, Ph.D. and author of “Host: Six New Roles of Engagement for Teams, Organizations, Communities, Movement,” told Amex OPEN Forum. However, McKergow said, savvy executives learn how to act “more like a host than a hero” by “drawing people together around an issue or challenge, engaging them and getting results through others.”

Becoming a CEO obviously requires amassing significant business savvy, but there’s more to the puzzle than that. Developing these 6 traits will serve you well as you attempt to move to the top.

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Julie Ritzer Ross
Julie Ritzer Ross has been covering all facets of business in a variety of vertical markets, including manufacturing, for the past 35 years and the use of technology in business for the past 25 years. A two-time winner of a Jesse H. Neal Award for business-to-business journalism, her work has appeared in such publications as MICROSOFT EXECUTIVE CIRCLE, CONSUMER GOODS TECHNOLOGY (formerly CONSUMER GOODS MANUFACTURER), VERTICAL SYSTEMS RESELLER, RESELLER MANAGEMENT, RIS NEWS, and INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS.

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