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How to Become a CEO

October 1, 2010 by Samuel Chong

For people who want to become CEOs, or Chief Executive Officers of companies, now there is a guide.  Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford Business School has been teaching a course on "paths to power" for years.  Now he has published a book titled "Power: Why Some People Have It - and Others Don't".

It is a question if someone wants to become a CEO of company.  It is another question that if someone wants to become a CEO, how to climb the ladder.

Pfeffer offered some insights and patterns.  We can see that he is, perhaps, those who don't want to become a CEO.  If he did, why is he still teaching?

His insights are helpful.  Here is the summary:

1. Choose the right department to join. The most powerful departments (R&D in Germany, finance in America) are the ones that have produced the current CEOs, and the ones that pay the most.  It is also important to find the department that is on the rise.  Thus knowing the trend is important. For example, with the importance of cable and satellite TV, working in those departments of a major media company will likely to increase your chance.

2. Learn to "manage upwards".  This means turning yourself into a supplicant.  Ask for help, like Barack Obama did when he first became involved in politics.  This also means that you would need to master the art of flattery.  Jennifer Chatman, of the University of California, Berkeley, conducted experiments in which she tried to find a point at which flattery became ineffective.  It turned out there wasn't one.

3. Ability to network.  One of the quickest ways to the top is to turn yourself into a "node" by starting an organization or forging a link between separate parts of a company.

4. Loyalty is important.  Remember, four out of every five CEO appointments go to insiders, according to Booz Allen, a consultancy.  Those insiders last almost two years longer in their jobs than outsiders.

5. Understand power.  Henry Kissinger said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.  It is important to understand its corrupting effects.  Powerful people need to cultivate a combination of paranoia and humility - paranoia about how much other people want them out and humility about their own replaceability.

With the above five points, you are on your way to become a CEO.



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