How to Become a CEO – A Complete Guide to Your Next Steps

May 11th, 2021

| Last Updated on June 3, 2021
how to become a CEO

There are two types of CEOs – the first type includes people who have plans to build their own companies and become CEOs. The second type consists of those who want to work in different companies, gain experience, go up the career ladder, and one day, realize their dream of becoming CEOs. By the way, if you have been wondering how to become a CEO, we might have just answered that question.

Eric Yuan is one of the CEOs that we have been hearing a lot about once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Does the name ring a bell?

You can, maybe, take 5 more seconds to recollect the name of the company that he owns.

Here’s a clue: If you have been working from home for a really long time, chances are that you have used his company’s product/service a million times by now!

Zoom! Correct.

While you may be thinking of how great it must be to own a company that is so highly valued, you should also remember that the CEO of Zoom has not just been reaping benefits. There were times when the company faced severe criticism due to security and privacy issues.

As you can see in the image above, the CEO had to step up, take ownership of the situation, and even make an apology to the consumers.

The life of a CEO is not easy. Just like every other individual in the workforce, a CEO has responsibilities. But as the head of a company, they have even more responsibilities and commitments.

Now, you aspire to become a CEO. You want to know how to become a CEO, don’t you?

We will help you out by providing all the necessary information on the CEO qualifications, responsibilities, skills, and a roadmap to become a CEO.

Here’s all the information you will walk away with once you read this article:

1. How to become a CEO – A (seemingly) simple roadmap

2. Reasons for which you shouldn’t become a CEO

3. The ‘CEO qualifications’ you need

4. Skills you require to become a successful CEO

5. Responsibilities of a CEO

6. Ten world-renowned CEOs, their qualifications, and companies

With power comes responsibility. If you want to become a CEO, it is important to keep this in mind with every decision you make.

1. How to become a CEO – A (seemingly) simple roadmap

Let’s be honest with you – there is no easy way to become a CEO. If it existed, a lot of us would be holding a CEO position, isn’t it? 🙂

Who is a CEO?

A chief executive officer is the highest-ranking executive officer in a company. This simply means that there is a lot of people and decisions that are dependent on them.

Here’s a common question that people have:

“Is the CEO and the owner of the company the same?”

They need not be.

But it can be the same person.

We will explain this to you with a simple example.

Consider The Coca-Cola Company. It is not owned by a single person but by many people who have invested in the company. Warren Buffet is the largest shareholder of the company.

But Warren Buffet is not the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. James Quincey is.

Consider another example.

Let’s go back to the first example we gave you: Zoom Video Communications.

In this example, you will see that the same person is the founder and CEO of the company. Zoom was founded by Eric Yuan who is also, as mentioned earlier, the CEO of the company.

So, how can you become a CEO?

Here’s the seemingly simple roadmap we were mentioning.

How to become the owner/founder and CEO of your company

Step 1 – Get a bachelor’s degree

Quick fact!

According to a recent study conducted by Forbes, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business Administration degrees were the most popular among the Fortune 100 (F100) CEOs. Out of this, 53% of them actually had obtained one of the two degrees.

Step 2 – Gain relevant work experience

Ideally, you should work in a company that is in the industry you wish to flourish in the future as well.

Step 3 – Get an MBA/management degree

Step 4 – Work on your startup idea along with your job

Step 5 – Leverage the acquired knowledge and skills to build your company

Step 6 – Become the CEO and founder of your company

Watch: How this budding entrepreneur decided to do an MBA that specializes in entrepreneurial management to learn business strategies and to get a sense of direction.

How to become the CEO of a company

Step 1 – Get a bachelor’s degree

Quick fact!

All CEOs do not hold a degree that is directly related to their company’s industry. For example, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’ CEO has a degree in history!

Step 2 – Gain relevant work experience

Try to work in the company you wish to run someday!

Step 3 – Get an MBA degree

Step 4 – Get into a managerial position in the company you want to be the CEO of

Step 5 – Put in the years, acquire industry experience and skills

Step 6 – Demonstrate your capabilities and successes to be considered for the CEO position in the company

As we mentioned earlier, the roadmap we have provided may look simple. But it is easier ‘mentioned’ and ‘understood’ than done.

We know that you want to be a CEO. But, why do you want to be a CEO?

If you don’t have the right reasons, you might be going in the wrong direction. Check out the 5 reasons why you should not be aiming for the CEO position.

2. Reasons for which you shouldn’t become a CEO

Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t be a CEO:

I. The CEO title matters more to you than serving your employees
II. You are not ready to make decisions or work
III. You believe that nobody can be smarter than you
IV. You are not clear about your mission
V. You cannot work unless someone assigns you tasks

Let’s tell why it is important to dwell on the above-mentioned five points before you make up your mind about becoming a CEO.

I. The CEO title matters more to you than serving your employees

If you want to become the CEO just to get the title, we would suggest that you don’t go for it.

The CEO title comes with a lot of responsibilities. Above anything else, you have the responsibility to serve your employees and teammates.

They work for the company and in turn, you have to ensure that you work for them and for their betterment. And you cannot run away from this responsibility once you have occupied that seat.

II. You are not ready to make decisions or work

If you are someone who wants to become the CEO thinking you won’t have to work, you are wrong.

You will have to work. And more importantly, you will have to make much bigger decisions.

As the CEO of a company, you cannot expect your employees to make decisions for you. Of course, you need to consider their views and suggestions. But you will have to think through everything, consider all aspects of the situation and make a decision.

You cannot run away from it.

III. You believe that nobody can be smarter than you

Nobody likes a CEO who thinks that he is the smartest person in the room and belittles his teammates. You have to be smart. But not by considering your team any lesser than you.

Let’s say that you are having a project meeting with the managers and other team members.

You may have a really good idea that you think will benefit the company. But if anyone suggests against it with a valid reason, you shouldn’t ignore it just because you want your idea to be implemented.

This is especially true if you have team members who have more experience in the industry than you. You should take their opinion seriously, evaluate the situation and then make a final decision.

IV. You are not clear about your mission

When you wake up in the morning, you should know exactly what you need to do. Not in terms of tasks, but in terms of the final outcome and goal.

And you should be able to go at it every single day.

If you are not clear about your mission, you are just going to keep running but get nowhere. Being a CEO, you should be clear about your goal, the company’s goals, and your employees’ goals as well.

They should all be aligned and you should be consistently working towards achieving them.

If you don’t believe in this, you shouldn’t be aiming for the CEO position.

V. You cannot work unless someone assigns you tasks

Are you someone who will be unproductive the moment your manager shifts his focus?

If so, you should seriously reconsider your wish to become a CEO someday.

Here’s why.

A CEO should be able to figure out his own tasks, manage them and show results. They should also be able to overlook their team’s projects and work.

As a CEO, if you cannot do this, your team will also be unable to do it.

3. The ‘CEO qualifications’ you need

If you went through the roadmap we had given in the beginning, you must have understood that you need to earn a bachelor’s degree to get started with your journey to get to the CEO position.

The reason why we emphasize getting a bachelor’s degree is that it is important for a CEO to have had a formal education. Earning a degree in engineering (which is very common among CEOs in the tech industry), business or arts adds value to your profile.

And when you are being considered for the position of the CEO in a company, you might be competing against other candidates as well. A good, formal education always adds value.

So, to state briefly, a CEO should earn a bachelor’s degree.

Secondly, you need to learn on the job.

You should gain enough experience working in companies and go up the career ladder to be considered for the CEO job role.

While most organizations try to find the right CEO talent from amongst their employees, there are organizations that will be open to considering candidates with sufficient experience and knowledge from other companies as well.

But you need to put in the time and effort to get to the top. That is inevitable. In some organizations, you can become the CEO with 15 years of work experience. Whereas, in some others, you will have to invest at least 25 years of your life to get to the position.

Now, do you actually have to do an MBA to become a CEO?

The answer is No.

You don’t have to absolutely get an MBA to become a CEO. But, a Master of Business Administration degree will provide you with knowledge and networking skills that are important for the job role.

For instance, if you decide to do an MBA in general management, you will gain a lot of knowledge on aspects of finance, marketing, operations management, decision-making, and negotiation strategies. A CEO has to know all this and should have experience implementing these learnings.

And if you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, you can do MBA in entrepreneurship, innovation, and such to get a better understanding. The best part about these MBA courses is that you will most likely get opportunities to pitch your startup ideas and kickstart your dream project by the time you leave business school!

These are the qualifications that you require to become a CEO. But over and above this, you will require specific skills and knowledge to actually qualify you for the CEO position.

Let us take a look at the skills you will require to become a successful CEO.

4. Skills you require to become a successful CEO

You can have a lot of knowledge and years of experience. But if you do not have the skills to apply all that you have learned in real-world corporate situations, you won’t be able to become a successful CEO.

So, what are these skills that you require above and beyond your CEO qualifications?

Let’s take a look at the top 5 skills that CEOs must have:

I. Management and leadership skills
II. Communication skills
III. Decision-making skills
IV. Problem-solving skills
V. Multitasking

I. Management and leadership skills

Well…as a CEO, you will have to manage your team, right? That is inevitable.

You will have managers who will take care of their team members. But you will have to collaborate with your team members and guide them whenever required.

Now, that is what a good leader does! Yes, you should be a leader and not a boss to your teammates.

And you will be able to effectively lead your team only if you manage them efficiently.

This brings us to the next most important skill required to become a CEO.

II. Communication skills

If you have been wondering how to become a CEO, you should also evaluate the skills that you possess. Especially, your communication skills.

As a CEO, you will be communicating with people at different levels. While you will have to address a board meeting and convince the members regarding the plans for the company, you also have the responsibility to communicate with your teammates effectively to achieve the best outcome.

From presentation to just a one-on-one conversation, you should be able to excel at any form of communication if you have to become a CEO.

III. Decision-making skills

When you are working in s company, you may wonder why it takes so long to make a decision. But once you are on the other side, as a CEO, you will understand the reason for it.

As a CEO, you will have to keep the company’s best interests in mind when you are making a decision. Sometimes, you will have some time to think about it whereas, at other times, you will have to make hasty decisions. But, even when you make a decision quickly, it should not be the wrong decision.

And you should not expect your colleagues to make decisions for you. As a CEO, you should be able to do it yourself taking into account your team members’ views.

IV. Problem-solving skills

If you thought that once you become a CEO, your teammates will solve all the issues and face all the troubles, you are wrong. There will be instances where you will have to step in and solve the problems.

You should be ready to do it at any time because you can never predict what can go wrong. As a CEO, you should know how to solve problems efficiently. While you can take time to figure out the best possible solution, you shouldn’t be stepping back at a time of crisis.

No team wants a CEO who runs away puts the blame on someone else when the roof is on fire.

V. Multitasking

As a CEO, it is nearly impossible to just take up one task at a time.

You will have to know everything about the multiple ongoing projects in the company, involve yourself in them, attend meetings associated with them and make decisions all at the same time.

You will have to have a clear plan for every day. And you need to follow the plan so that you get to allocate enough time to each activity and also be productive.

These are the five skills you should absolutely have if you want to become a successful CEO. But you should also possess good listening skills, networking skills, and even risk-taking abilities if you aspire to become the CEO of a company.

Now that you know the skills required to become a CEO, do you think you have all of them? Even if you do not possess all of them right now, you can definitely build them over time.

Let us now look at the main responsibilities of a CEO.

5. Responsibilities of a CEO

Unlike other job roles, a CEO has diverse responsibilities.

While you may be trying to communicate to the board of directors about the latest upward market trends at the moment, you will have to work on your company’s long-term strategy right after the board meeting.

Becoming a CEO is a huge responsibility. And if you are not someone who can take complete ownership and deliver, you may want to work on those aspects before you aspire to become a CEO.

So, here’s a short list of responsibilities that a CEO has:

I. Lead to achieve the company’s short and long-term goals
II. Assess and monitor risks to the company
III. Communicate with shareholders, the public, and the government entities
IV. Evaluate the work of other executive leaders
V. Ensure that the company is on the right track to achieving its set goals
VI. Keep a track of the market trends and make decisions for the company

All successful CEOs have taken up these responsibilities and have performed at the necessary time. That is how they succeeded in that role.

You can check out the list of successful CEOs below.

6. Ten world-renowned CEOs and their companies

Here are the top 10 CEOs you can look up to.

Name Application Company
Sundar Pichai Google and Alphabet
Tim Cook Apple
Satya Nadella Microsoft
Mary Barra General Motors
Jamie Dimon JP Morgan
Shantanu Narayen Adobe Systems
Ajaypal Singh Banga MasterCard
Anand Mahindra Mahindra
Indra Nooyi Pepsi
Alex Gorsky Johnson and Johnson

You have all the information to help you become a CEO.

When it comes to skills, do remember that the successful CEOs did not build them overnight. It was the years they put into their dreams that helped them achieve the required skills.

But when it comes to qualifications, there are a lot of things that are under your control right now. You can get the perfect undergraduate degree so that you build a strong base. And if you feel that an MBA is the right way forward, you can do that too.

An MBA, as mentioned earlier, will help you develop the required skills to become a CEO. It will also give you knowledge that you can utilize to become the most efficient CEO.

So, if you want to know how to get started with your MBA plans, please feel free to reach out to us. We will be happy to evaluate your profile and make the best career decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years does it take to be a CEO?

You can become a CEO, maybe, in 25 years’ time or in some cases, much earlier. It all depends on the experience you gain, the skills you acquire, and the qualifications you have. People should be able to entrust the responsibility to you.

How can I become a CEO in India?

There is really no difference between how you can become a CEO in India or abroad. You will have to follow the same six steps we have mentioned in the article to become a CEO.

Step 1 – Get a bachelor’s degree

Step 2 – Gain relevant work experience

Try to work in the company you wish to run someday!

Step 3 – Get an MBA degree

Step 4 – Get into a managerial position in the company you want to be the CEO of

Step 5 – Put in the years, acquire industry experience and skills

Step 6 – Demonstrate your capabilities and successes to be considered for the CEO position in the company

What is the fastest way to become a CEO?

There is no easy way to get to the CEO position. But you can get started by getting a Bachelor’s degree and then acquiring work experience and skills.

What does a CEO do?

A CEO has many responsibilities. A CEO’s responsibilities include:

I. Lead to achieve the company’s short and long-term goals
II. Assess and monitor risks to the company
III. Communicate with shareholders, the public, and the government entities
IV. Evaluate the work of other executive leaders
V. Ensure that the company is on the right track to achieving its set goals
VI. Keep a track of the market trends and make decisions for the company

How to become a CEO of your own business?

You can become the CEO of your own business. There is no doubt about that. Here’s how:

Step 1 – Get a bachelor’s degree

Step 2 – Gain relevant work experience

Ideally, you should work in a company that is in the industry you wish to flourish in the future as well.

Step 3 – Get an MBA/management degree

Step 4 – Work on your startup idea along with your job

Step 5 – Leverage the acquired knowledge and skills to build your company

Step 6 – Become the CEO and founder of your company