So you want to be a CEO…

by Evan Davies, Chief Executive - QLD, VIC & NZ | |   Personal Success
you want to be a CEO

Many aspire to be a CEO, but few make it. How do you distinguish yourself from the pack, to become a front-runner for the top job?

Technically, anyone can become the CEO, but it is usually the person with strong leadership qualities, and who has distinguished themselves from the pack, who ends up landing the job.

Do you need a degree?

There are no rules dictating CEOs must have attended university, although few make it to the top without some formal education.

Completion of a university course provides exposure to several disciplines and causes the person to think, interact and share ideas with others, which are valuable experiences for an aspiring CEO.

What personality traits should you have?

In addition to personal drive and ambition, other personality traits that typically play a part in one’s ability to attain CEO status are:

  • Good communicator and negotiator
  • A visionary
  • Engaging and motivating, with the ability to enroll the organisation into delivering the vision

How much experience is required?

Previous senior-level managerial experience, as well as significant experience in the company's field, is a prerequisite for becoming CEO. 

What other skills are needed?

There are many other skills needed for becoming a successful CEO. Being capable of delivering continuous innovation, and identifying opportunities even in difficult situations are useful skills, as well as the ability to communicate effectively and explore ideas put forward by the team. The CEO must be inclusive in decision-making, promoting a common goal culture, be emotionally in control and have an ability to trust others.

What differentiates CEOs?

  • Always plan ahead and are prepared for the future
  • Are comfortable taking calculated but not careless risks
  • Have a bias toward execution but not too impulsive
  • Actively and optimistically pursue new opportunities
  • Thick-skinned and perseverant but not insensitive
  • Able to quickly read people, but seek to understand different perspectives
  • They do not over analyse
  • Often referred to as pragmatic inclusive - involving others in decisions while at the same time independent decision-makers
  • Have a willingness to trust and are comfortable with a variety of people

Obviously, it takes a lot more than this to become a great CEO, but you have to start somewhere.  What are your thoughts on what it takes to become a successful CEO?


The CEO Institute was founded in 1992. It is now Australia's leading membership organisation for CEOs and senior executives. It provides a forum for over 1,000 Chief Executive members to connect and share their learning with each other. In 2011, The CEO Institute became the world’s first global certification body for CEOs, and in 2013, partnered with UNESCO in support of the "Malala Fund for Girls' Right to Education". In 2014, they began offering their programs globally. The CEO Syndicate is an exclusive peer support network for CEOs. The first meeting of The CEO Syndicate program was held in Melbourne in June 1992. Offices were opened in Adelaide in 1996 and Sydney and Brisbane in 1997, with Perth launching in 2007. In 2015 the New Zealand office opened.  The Future CEO program is a certification course designed by the business leaders of today for the business leaders of tomorrow. The first Future CEO meeting was held in Melbourne in May 2012. In 2014, the "Future CEO Scholarship Fund for Women" was established, and continues to be offered today. Membership of The CEO Institute is by invitation only. To register your interest click enquire.

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