The CEO Role: Advice for Female Executives

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In a recent report, cited in Forbes, 4,000 employees at a large US firm were surveyed about their career aspirations, leading to highly interesting results. 36% of men said that their aspiration was to become CEO, however, a mere 18% of women share this goal. In light of these figures, we take a look at the top advice from female CEOs for aspiring female CEOs. Here’s what we found:

Take Risks
A large proportion of the highest paid CEOs today, both male and female, put their success down to taking bold career risks. Putting yourself forward for opportunities and tasks outside of your comfort zone will help to get you noticed and set you apart. Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint advises aspiring CEOs to ‘take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignments you can find, and then take control.’

Be Confident
As cliché as it may sound, it is important to make others to believe in your leadership capabilities, and the only way to make them believe, is to believe it yourself. Gracia Martore of Gannet strongly endorses this approach, saying that ‘in order to lead an organization, you have to be incredibly comfortable in your own skin.’

Work Hard
Sometimes, no matter what skills you develop, nothing can take the place of a great work ethic, dedication and strict focus. CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch attributes her success down to the fact that she ‘had a very strong work ethic…and was willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.’

Disregard Myths
We have all heard the murmurs in the press that say that women can’t sustain both a family and a successful career simultaneously, however, for female executives wanting to get ahead, it is important to set aside negative untruths, regardless of how well-known they are. At present, there are 12 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and of this number 11 are mothers, proving that this is clearly not the case.  Ilene Gordon, CEO of Corn Products, champions this point, declaring ‘the skills that make a good business leader [are] organization, drive, trust, delegation and compassion’ and that these skills ‘also go a long way to balance the responsibilities of work and family life.’

Keep Learning
If you aspire to become a CEO, you must see view your career as a life-long educational process. If you know that your career goal is to become a CEO, it is never too early to start preparing for the role. Denise Morrison of Campbell’s Soup agrees, stating ‘I developed a strategic process for my career plan that set the final destination, developed the career track, identified skills to build, took line positions to gain experience, and sought leadership and management training on the job, through special assignments, coaching and networking.’
So, if you are considering becoming CEO and would like help to develop your strategic career plan, seek out expert advice, and identify key skills to build, look no further than our recent executive seminar, Executive Careers: Are You Ready to Become CEO? (Premium Members - login to download a recording).

This is seminar took place on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014. The podcast recording is available to BlueSteps Premium members.

Join BlueSteps today to view the full BlueSteps Podcast Archive.
About BlueSteps
BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in more than 75 countries. Be visible, and be considered for over 90,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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About the author

This article was written by Lisa Marsh, Marketing Manager at the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).

About the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants

Since 1959, the AESC has set the standard for quality and ethics in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. Because AESC members must commit and adhere to the AESC's industry and government recognized Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, clients can be assured that AESC members are able to serve as trusted advisors for their most important engagements. As the voice for executive search and leadership consulting worldwide, today the AESC is comprised of more than 350 member firms, representing 8,000 executive search professionals in 75 countries. To learn more about the AESC and its membership, visit www.aesc.org.

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