There’s no guaranteed route to the top…

Business structures and hierarchies may change but ultimately there is a requirement for someone to be at the top. This explains why the CEO position is as coveted as it’s ever been.

However, candidates face an ever-increasing challenge in climbing the corporate ladder. Do aspiring Chief Executives need to wait for their turn to be promoted or is it better to leave and gain senior positions elsewhere?

Reaching the top

Rising to the top of a company isn’t as rigid as it once was but this also depends on the company. Whereas Microsoft has never appointed a CEO outside of the organisation, spending a career in one organisation isn’t encouraged. Instead, it’s beneficial to work within various companies to understand how processes and organisational structures work before taking the helm.

This valuable experience allows potential CEOs to decide on the best processes, procedures and organisational structures that will work for their operation.

While age has remained static around the world, more than half of all CEOs globally are in their 50s, the trend is beginning to change. The UK as an example now has more CEOs under 40 than Italy, France and Germany.

While CEOs are made up of a broad selection of backgrounds, there isn’t a necessity for candidates to now ‘serve their time’. The advent of social media, selling online and the introduction of technology has adapted the way in which businesses operate globally. With this comes the necessity for expertise, and there is a requirement for technologically aware candidates.

Skill sets

To develop into a CEO ready candidate it’s essential to gain as much experience as possible in various areas of any business. Commerciality is an integral part, 21% of CEOs now hail from a marketing background, only second to finance at 36%.

Therefore, if you’re working in the Built Environment, Print & Packaging, Mining & Minerals or Chemical & Life Sciences sectors in a technical or operational role, it’s beneficial to bolt on commercial skills to get that extra edge.

For technical and operational specialists, in particular, this ensures a well-rounded set of skills and understanding of the whole organisation as a unit. This is an advantage over candidates who may only have divisional expertise.

Outside of tangible experience, a CEO is a clear communicator who has the ability to give direction as well as listen to expert advice. Intelligence is an integral factor as is determination and strong business nous.

In general, depending on the industry, a CEO will have an impressive educational background as well as proven experience in running successful major projects. They are able to thrive under pressure and are willing to work the hours it takes to make the business successful.

What are your chances of becoming a CEO?

Becoming a great CEO is a dream of many and one that only few experience. The career pyramid becomes narrow at the top and the competition from senior managers with their own aspirations is significant.

Before deciding to pursue it as a career path, one needs to ask themselves whether they can handle the pressures associated with the role. Are they able to grapple with the demands on their time and do they have the ability to take advantage of opportunities in the market?

Luke Robbins-Wells, CHI MD said, “When you desire a career as a CEO, you need to look at the skills and experience you’ve gained during your career to date within the market and transferable markets you operate in, and take a view on what further skills you need that can enhance your chances of making the top position work for you”

Ultimately, there is no unique pathway to becoming a CEO. In reality, every candidate finds their own way to the top. Whether they have a background in marketing, finance, technical or operational there is a route to the top.

Chad Harrison International is a specialist executive search and head hunter firm. We offer both permanent and interim solutions at board level, senior specialist, and Executive level positions within Packaging & Print, Built Environment, Chemical & Life Sciences and Mining & Metals. View our vacancies page today.