Learn to think like a CEO

For some executives climbing the corporate ladder is enough. You want to excel until you reach a point of contentment, where your skills and your salary are well-matched. But for others, they want to crash through the ceiling like Charlie Bucket in his Great Glass Elevator. It’s nowhere near enough even to max out in their department. They want to be In Charge.


But how do you get there? How do you achieve that ultimate goal? Sure, you can go out and start your own company for a couple hundred bucks. Suddenly you have That Title. But what does it mean if there’s nothing substantive and life-fulfilling behind it? Nothing, as it turns out. Being a CEO isn’t nearly the same as living as one.

There are several key factors you must measure yourself against if you want to make it to the top of your chosen profession.

You need to understand and think like a CEO.

There’s leadership, and then there’s big picture leadership. If you don’t have the latter, even if you reach the top, you’re just giving yourself farther to fall. You need to be able to understand the big picture inside and out. It’s more than just speaking the language, it’s thinking like a CEO and understanding how and when to make CEO decisions.

You must be a positive person, someone who excels at problem solving, not problem noting.

Many people can point out when something isn’t going as it should. Then there is the rare breed who come with solutions instead of complaints. CEOs do that plus they have the juice to solve the problem — and the responsibility. The buck stops with you, so you need to be willing to implement the Big Idea, not just bring it up at a pitch meeting.

Check your ego.

Sure, you need to display confidence, but the moment you make your success about you alone is the very moment everyone around you begins to think about how to fire you or replace you … and you may not even realize it yet.

You must know how to inspire leaders and mentor those around you to become leaders as well.

At some level, no CEO will be any better than his or her team. You need people around you that you know can get the job done right. Not to the best of their ability, but right. There’s a difference, and it’s vital.

Ask the best questions.

If you see something off or about to go badly, you need to know how to ask the right questions to find the best solutions. It’s not enough to “fix” a problem. You need to have the best possible fix. That begins with asking the best questions.

So, what about you? How do you stack up against these very basic CEO traits? Is your thinking on the level, or do you still have some work to do?

Chris Burch is a venture capitalist, and his investment portfolio includes Bauble Bar and Powermat via Burch Creative Capital.

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