Planning the Path to CEO
So you’ve decided you want to be an association CEO. Here are four steps for developing an intentional strategy for getting there.
CEO. That short acronym contains a tall order. It may feel like it looms large, but if you are intentional about getting to that role, you can build a successful strategy for reaching it.
If you know now, start now. While not every CEO has degrees and certifications, it’s likely that you will—and not just because you want to stand out from the crowd. Getting the graduate degree or certification in your area of expertise expresses your commitment and knowledge to get the job done. In association management, this might mean earning your MBA or CAE, but do research on what would best serve you in the industry you want to land in.
Make your intentions clear to your supervisor. Sharing your plans for your career with your supervisor can have tremendous benefits, especially if it’s someone you look up to. Your supervisor can help you set and keep professional goals. Together you can carve out opportunities to grow your skills in a comfortable environment. A good manager will always want to invest in the upcoming leaders and won’t be threatened by their ambitions. If you feel like you can’t confide in your direct supervisor, find someone else you respect in the office.
Stay (or get) humble. Leadership requires humility, and you have two options: do so willingly or the hard way. Good CEOs are open to new or better ideas. They recognize that they have weaknesses and that they don’t have all the information. It’s far better to cultivate a humble character now before learning the lessons the hard (and sometimes public) way. Find ways to practice humility: ask team members how they would improve a process, seek out an expert coworker to walk you through a report you don’t understand, or invite your direct reports to give you feedback on how you’re doing as their boss.
Be a team player now. Not only will you contribute to the higher mission of your organization, but you will be cultivating relationships that will teach you how to be productive with anyone. A CEO doesn’t get far without the whole team. In addition, you get a more rounded picture of all the functions that make up an association. Being well-versed in the different departments will serve you better down the line. This is especially important if you are hoping to stay within the same organization, but it’s beneficial for all of us.
One seldom finds themselves in the role of CEO, and if you are just hoping it happens one day, it may never happen. A careful inventory of where you are and what it takes to get to where you want to go will help you stay on track.
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