The life of a CEO is not as coveted as it once was. Today, not everyone wants to rise to the top; in fact, many are content just to hang out on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.
This C-suite phobia should be welcome news to those of you who are aiming for the executive ranks. It means there’s less competition out there for you to best. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy: The competition does exist for senior posts remains as fierce as ever, and it may become even fiercer, given that recent reports show that the average CEO salary hit $13.8 million in 2015.
If you want to ascend to the top, you not only have to work hard, but also have to work smart. Let’s face it: Anyone who realistically aspires to this level is going to be a cut above the rest. It’s up to you to outsmart all those other aspirants.
The best way to position yourself for the C-level is to focus on developing a few premium skills and credentials that tend to go hand in hand with executive posts. My advice? Start with these four:
1. A degree
More than 50 percent of Fortune 100 CEOs have degrees in economics, business, or accounting. Meanwhile, 27 percent of them studied engineering and 14 percent studied law. If you really want to earn a place in the C-suite, it’s best to lay off the liberal arts. Pursue these more vocational fields of study instead – and maybe even get yourself an MBA while you’re at it, because 40 percent of Fortune 100 CEOs have one of those, too.
2. The Art of Persuasion
Once you get that coveted corner office, you can’t just bark orders at people and expect them to jump to it. This “tactic” may have worked at lower levels, but at the top of the ladder, your colleagues and associates will be much better at pushing back.
You’ll also be much further from the action, too, meaning you simply won’t be in a position to tell someone to “get on it.” You can’t walk around and shout in the ears of 100 employees every morning, can you? This isn’t Full Metal Jacket.
the C-level, you’ll need to do a little less commanding, and a lot more persuading. When you’re in the C-suite, you’ll need to convince and inspire people if you want to get anything done. You’ll also need to be good at negotiating your way around any obstacles or conflicts that arise.
3. Leadership Skills
Of course leadership skills are vital in leadership positions. What is less obvious, however, is what “leadership skills” really means.
AtAccording to a study from the American Management Association (AMA), key leadership skills for the C-level include “strategic planning, decision making, execution, and drive for results.”
Still, these might sound a little vague. Let’s take a look at what these skills are like in practice:
- Rather than being stressed out or incapacitated by uncertainty and pressure, you take control with timely and appropriate decisions and actions.
- You tend not to be hampered by hurdles and setbacks. You are matter of fact about them, and you always find a way to work around them.
- Even in the midst of the corporate melee, you can you map out strategic goals and keep your sights focused on what matters.
- When others around your have had enough, you are busy looking for the next goal to accomplish.
4. Time Management Skills
Sure, time management skills aren’t sexy or exciting, but they are critical to your success as an executive. The AMA study cited above found that many members of the C-level struggle with time management, which is exactly why you need time management skills: If you have them, but your competitors don’t, then you’ll get a huge advantage over the other people vying for your executive spot.
There are, of course, plenty of external factors beyond your control that will impact your ability to make it into the C-suite. In terms of what you can control, however, you should focus on sharpening your skills and credentials in the areas listed above. Doing so will give you the best possible chance of one day sitting in that coveted corner office.