Stepping Up to CEO

CEOs are getting younger, according to the Wall Street Journal. From tech start-ups to restaurant pop-ups, new business owners and CEOs are having to learn a new skill set they may not have picked up in school. Whether you’re stepping up to your first CEO-ship or are moving from a smaller business into the corner office of a much larger organization, these tips offer expert guidance.

Be an Influencer

As CEO, you naturally have a great deal of influence over the direction your organization takes, but how much of an impact do you have on the people who comprise it? Do they follow you because that’s what they’re instructed to do, or are they as eager as you are to reach a common goal? Influential CEOs are able to imbue their staff, from C-level executives to entry-level interns, with genuine enthusiasm. To be a more effective influencer, you have to be a strong communicator who can express clearly, concisely, and in detail why the goals you’ve set are meaningful. People love to know they’re working toward something greater than a paycheck; give them that greater sense of purpose by being an influential leader.

Develop Company Culture

Your influential position makes you uniquely qualified to define your organization’s culture and philosophy – and yes, it matters. Whether you’re B2C or B2B, your customers, like your employees, want to know they’re buying into something larger than just a product or service provider. They want to know they’re supporting an organization that will reward their choice with outstanding service, greater efficiency, a state-of-the-art product, or whatever else distinguishes you. Your personnel also need to feel a part of this philosophy so they can contribute meaningfully to it, and it all starts with you.

Lead Your Talent

Not every manager is a leader, and not every leader’s a manager. To thrive as a CEO, you want to be both – but with a slight edge toward prioritizing leadership. You can hire outstanding managers to coordinate, assign duties, and keep everything running smoothly, but leadership is something larger; it requires vision, persistence, and drive. The good news is that you probably already have strong innate leadership skills. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten this far. Now it’s time to hone your leadership skills to a finer point so you can inspire others to climb the mountain with you instead of simply telling them where to go.

Understand Your Marketplace

Remember beepers? You might, if you’re in your forties or so. They were ubiquitous; now, almost no one uses them. The best beeper seller on the planet couldn’t move them once newer, more multi-purpose technology in the form of cell phones (and later, smartphones) came onto the scene. Conversely, even the sharpest smartphone would have been an impossibly hard sell without the network infrastructure to make it work.

In other words, every market has its time and place. CEOs must have a deep understanding of where their market niche is, what it would take to capitalize completely on that niche, how to expand beyond it, and what to adopt next as the organization matures. You don’t have to go it alone when getting a better picture of your market. Your CMO, CFO, CIO, sales director, and other leaders within your organization can contribute their own insights to your collective understanding.

Be Someone You’re Proud Of

Loyalty, honesty, and trustworthiness aren’t just abstract values. They’re core skills for CEOs who want long-term success. Treating your staff and customers with respect ensures they stay with you for years to come. Just as meaningfully, you’ll be able to move on to your next company with a sense of accomplishment at having built something great in your image.

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