A lot of my clients are executives, but the ones that aren’t, usually have a C-suite role in mind for their future. And they often ask me how to make that happen. And I tell them that there is no one-for-all plan, but there are some common steps most people take to get there. In fact, your executive career has already started, and it shows in the way you speak, work with a team, and handle pressure. So now, you just want to build on that further.
It is important to remember that once you reach the C-suite, your technical skills and expertise become less relevant, and your leadership skills and gravitas become imperative. What should you as a would-be executive focus on as you choose companies, departments, and roles? What are some of the abilities that you need to accumulate as you strive to reach the next level?
With all the advice on how to reach C level, things can get confusing. But, from my experience, there are things that most aspiring executives are not doing even though they should:
1. You need multiple mentors, not just one
When you think of your ideal C-suite role, do you have someone in mind? Do you know of anyone who already has it? If so, then you want to contact that person, ask for mentoring and offer something in return! Perhaps you can help them with some of their tasks! Try to connect on a personal level with not just one, but multiple leaders from different industries.
2. Don’t think that managerial skills are equal to leadership skills
We all know how we want our top executives to act. We want them to be compassionate, and communicate in a clear and persuasive manner. We want them to be motivational and lead by example. In order to become the kind of leader you would like to work for, you need to establish your leadership skills and gravitas. You can do that by communicating with other C-suite professionals, hiring an executive coach and working with them, and through practice. Even when you are a mid-level professional, you can start demonstrating exceptional leadership skills.
3. An MBA will get you further than you think
Although going to graduate school will not guarantee a C-suite role, getting an MBA certainly helps. In addition to learning relevant skills and expertise needed for the C-suite role, people that you meet there might be even more important. 20% of MBA students are already executives! It’s all about connecting with the right people.
4. There is no such thing as too much networking
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to reaching the top executive level, networking is essential. The roles that you are targeting hold more responsibility and power than any other roles in an organization. And that is why companies want someone they can trust for those roles. Creating a powerful network earlier on in your career and maintaining it is imperative for achieving your goal.
5. You have a brand even if you are not aware of it
When we think of some of the most successful CEOs, we rarely think about their technical knowledge and expertise. We think of their personality, their core values, and what they care about. And in order to become one of them, you need to start creating your brand. What is meaningful to you, what do you stand for? Are you someone who cares about diversity? Do you want to help people learn how to deal with stressful work situations? Find out what are some of your core values and causes, and then make sure that everyone you know is aware of them. Your online identity as well as your real-life persona should be consistent with your brand values.
6. Long tenure does still help
Not long ago, the only way to become a C-suite leader would be to have a long tenure in a company, or have your own company. Nowadays, there are many different opportunities in order to get there. But being in a company for a long time certainly helps. In order to become a C-level executive through internal promotion, you need to work for the same company for at least 15 years, gain invaluable knowledge and experience steadily and ascend to higher, more demanding positions. You also must be able to reinvent yourself as the company evolves with time. Alternatively, if you are the owner of a business, you can create your own opportunities and have more control over your advancement to the C-suite. But you still need to have excellent sales and leadership skills, and cultivate a tolerance for uncertainty.
7. Proactivity will ensure advancement
Regardless of the role that you currently have, you want to get recognized for your initiative. You want to gain recognition by volunteering for new opportunities, demonstrating a can-do attitude and taking on assignments or positions that require travel or relocation. Also, look for opportunities to work with C-level executives.
8. Your flexibility is your biggest asset
In 2022, more than ever before, being flexible makes the difference between success and failure. Everything is changing rapidly, and executives need to change as well. Whether that means going completely remote with your company when you see that most employees prefer that, or going above and beyond to customize your solutions for your end consumer, if you don’t change with the times, you get left behind.
Getting to the C-suite is not an easy task. But when you follow these steps, you have increased your chances of getting there. Be consistent with your brand, establish yourself as a leader, know the right people and you will get there faster than you think.
One thought on “8 Ways you can achieve your C-suite dreams”