How to become the Chief Executive

Adeline Iziren takes you straight to the top

Is your dream to reach the top of your profession? Do you sometimes sit at your desk and visualise what it would be like to do your boss’s job or – even become CEO of a major company?

Whether you want to make it to the top in two or 20 years time your best bet is to start preparing now.

Begin by making allies with colleagues at all levels. Organisations, after all, are about people and if you don’t get on with them you’ll scupper any hope of achieving your dream.

‘Make one good ally in your company every month and every Friday, take one of your allies out to lunch,’ suggests Jeffrey J. Fox, author of How to become CEO.

But don’t get over-friendly with your bosses – you don’t want to come across as a schemer or a sycophant. Jeffrey suggests you remember their problems, plans and idiosyncrasies, but discreetly, and are around to help both on a business and personal level.

When it comes to your work performance, aim to know your job better than anyone else in the company, and always deliver more than is expected. But make sure going the extra mile doesn’t mean you miss deadlines. Instead aim to beat them. It is this approach to work that propelled lawyer Sue Nickson to partner status and head of the employment unit of a major firm while still in her twenties. Not surprisingly, she was headhunted by another major player in the legal world. ‘The company said they didn’t have an employment law unit and asked me to set it up. But I turned them down,’ recalls Sue, who didn’t see the need to move away from a job she loved. But the firm made a second offer and Sue relented. Now she is overseeing 50 employment lawyers as the national head of the employment unit for Hammond Suddards Edge. She is also a partner in the company. Chris Jones, managing partner of Hammond Suddards Edge says Sue is more than a good worker. ‘She has a wonderful personality and is always the first to come out for a drink with the gang.’

Many people reckon that the way to the top is to toil for twelve to fourteen hours each day and demonstrate your enthusiasm further by taking work home. Nowadays this approach gives the impression that you cannot cope with your workload. The best bosses are not one-dimensional. Instead they are broad-based with a balance between life and work. They spend time with their family, go for a drink with friends and indulge in their hobbies.

To avoid working long hours you need to work smart. Work on your most important tasks at a time during the day when you are most likely to perform at your peak.

Arguably, one of the quickest ways to become a CEO is to set up your own business. This is how former TV researcher Kanya King reached the top. She is founder and CEO of Boom Factory, the parent company of the annual MOBO Awards, which celebrates music of black origin. Her meteoric rise began to unfold when she took the bold step of approaching scores of sports, media and electronic companies to help fund her vision of a music awards show for urban music. Her initial efforts proved fruitless, but along the way she came into contact with Andy Ruffell, a former director of communications company Big Group who joined forces with her to seek sponsorship. Then she bumped into the MD of London Weekend Television during a football match in London.

‘He suggested I send in a proposal,’ says Kanya. ‘Then we saw the head of entertainment and told him about our five year plan. He talked to Carlton Television about it and Carlton contacted us.’

The meeting with Carlton was in September 1996. Carlton wanted Kanya to stage the awards show within seven weeks. ‘We worked flat out and didn’t sleep for seven weeks. We didn’t want to miss this opportunity,’ she recalls.

Five years on, the MOBO awards is a huge success and Boom Factory has a portfolio that includes an awards show celebrating dance music, an annual magazine and a competition showcasing talented unknowns.

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