" He Who is Afraid of Asking is Afraid of Learning... " ~ (Danish Proverb)

The “CEO” Gene

I remember penning my book and implying in its title that my journey took me “From Secretary to CEO“…facetious or otherwise, my career path and attitude had taken me on a distinct trajectory in the upward direction. And, I truly believe that – had I continued along the path – the succession planning Gods would have voted in my favor and landed me as close to a CEO position as I chose to be.

At the risk of sounding self-important and utterly overconfident – which I am NOT – I should explain that what I didn’t know then is that I possessed certain key characteristics which, today, are known as “The Five Traits That Get You Promoted to CEO”*:

*Author’s Note: Although aptly named, the article could just as well be called “The Five Traits Which Get You Through Life With Strength and Success…” :)

From his interviews with over 70 chief executives and leaders, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant identified the “X factors” for leading an organization—qualities that can determine who gets promoted to that corner office:

  • Passionate curiosity: Relentless questioning and being infectiously fascinated with everything around you, human nature in particular ~ [N says] It’s not enough to just “learn the lingo” of the industry or organization, you need to learn the players, the art of interacting with them to get things done and how to lose in order to win
  • Battle-hardened confidence: Overcoming—and even relishing—adversity. CEOs most often ask job candidates how they’ve dealt with failure in the past ~ [N says] Failure IS your friend if a) you’re the first to call out your mistake (or as soon as it is discovered), admit fault and ask how you can learn from or avoid the same mistake in the future. Adversity awaits you around every corner; sometimes it’s your fault and other times, it’s someone else’s. So, knowing how to address and mitigate damage as soon as adverse events occur are keys to undoing the ill effects while growing in confidence the next time something goes wrong.
  • Team smarts: More than just being a team player, understanding how teams work and getting the most out of the team (in sports terms, being a playmaker) ~ [N says] Independence is a fallacy- we are all interdependent, and nowhere is this truer than when the collective success of your team = your success. Learn your people- their strengths, weaknesses and buttons so you can guide them to their highest success (and ultimately your own…)
  • A simple mindset: Being concise, simple, and clear in your communications ~ [N says] I speak at length in my book about working for an IT company, where my advanced education was rendered moot by 19-year old hacking geniuses. Had it not been for my command of the written word and the ability to sound like I knew what I was talking about, I would have never made it past the reception desk. Communication skills, both verbal and written are the greatest muscles you can tone. If these skills do not come naturally, find yourself a Business Writing course and Dale Carnegie chapter…
  • Fearlessness: Comfort with the unknown and taking calculated, informed risks; also, seeing opportunities and being proactive about positive change ~ [N says] The operative words here are calculated and informed . Do your homework and once you have earned that battle-hard confidence, taking educated risks, but not risking overconfidence, will become second nature. And yes, with change does come opportunity – so keep your eyes wide open and don’t let the slim opening of opportunity close before you exert a little upfront effort to see what positive influence you can make with or without the promise of reward and recognition.

Whether you are an aspiring executive or the CEO of your own career path…do you possess these traits?

Wishing You Success,

Image Courtesy of You Know You Made IT When…

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