How to be the successful CEO you dreamed of growing up to be

Dream of having the top job but, in a man’s world full of highly qualified competition, are you feeling like you’ll never get there?

It’s a common problem: our early career goals tend to get swallowed in the minutiae of daily life, particularly if we had to veer off from our career plan at any stage due to unpredicted changes.

However, while it’s easy to talk yourself out of your dreams, the evidence may be stacked against you doing so. Rather than brainiacs with Oxbridge PhDs, today’s CEOs and small business owners are more likely to have learned from a retail job in their late teens, pursued drama in school and had one subject they were passionate about.

So, if you have the drive to succeed, that corner office could still be very much within your reach.

Tom Froggatt, Director of Singular Talent, an agency focused on hiring top talent, specialises in head-hunting for top positions and has given his top tips on standing out from the crowd. And they may not be what you’d think… 

1) Practise enthusiasm

Speaking as part of the Hiscox Formula for Business Success campaign looking at the traits needed to become a successful CEO, Froggatt explains that “successful people are, almost uniformly, confident. That doesn’t mean they never have doubts, but that they back themselves to deal with challenges that arise and to find solutions.”

However, ‘confident’ shouldn’t be taken as a by-word for ‘narcissism’. The most confident people we meet aren’t those who are trying to be confident, but rather those with such a natural enthusiasm for, and understanding of, their topic of interest that confidence is a natural by-product.

 Indeed, responding to a survey around the same campaign, 45% marked themselves out as ‘enthusiastic’ from a young age, suggesting their passions led them to work hard at what made them tick and become confident in their own ability to master their chosen subject. Get back in touch with what really makes you tick, or your favourite things about your chosen career path, and let yourself get excited about them again.

Confidence doesn’t mean being brash or boorish either – Tom says that ‘being quiet and considered’ is a key trait in many CEOs, with knowledge always winning out against a slick sales approach, so drop pre-conceived notions of what a confident person looks like, and concentrate on your self-belief instead.

2) Communicate clearly

It goes without saying that every job involves one or more of talking to your colleagues, communicating with customers, clients and stakeholders to keep them happy and being forthcoming about your own skills and expertise.

The more senior you become, the more honed you’re expected to be – and a high amount of business leaders have got a head start on teamwork and pubic speaking by being involved in school performances (44% of those surveyed) or joining a sports team (33%).

But whether your natural place is in the limelight or working as part of a well-oiled machine, there are loads of ‘extracurricular’ ways to improve your communication.

Concentrate on areas where you can work in a team, whether you’re organising a hockey game or just a family day out, and really analyse on how you’re presenting yourself to others to get your desired outcome. Think about how you present yourself in these situations and see what you could potentially carry over to the workplace!

3) Never stop learning

Froggatt says while “there are some positions that have qualifications as a pre-requisite, most don’t. You can get to a certain point in your career by applying and developing what you learned at school and university, but after that you must continue working on yourself to progress.

“What’s essential to business success,” continues Froggatt, “is an ongoing commitment to personal development.” So, as you look to secure your dream job, put yourself above all candidates by making sure you can demonstrate that hunger to learn. 

Even if you’re already taking classes to develop your skills, attending seminars and workshops or reading (or, even better, contributing to) industry blogs, figure out what you can’t learn in these more traditional settings and find a way to get that knowledge.

Outline these efforts in your CV, or share your knowledge with your team, and you’ll soon find that you’re increasingly attractive to hiring managers, a bigger asset to your boss, and more trustworthy to your colleagues – all essential for the top job. 

Whatever you’re looking for in your dream career, the journey to finding and securing the perfect job can be both difficult and overwhelming.

But hopefully, with the tips above, you can start making some steps towards improving your chances, and really owning your career. And never forget – you can do this!

Photo by Semina Psichogiopoulou