Q: I want to be a good CEO. How do I become one?
A: A noble ambition, with the additional privilege of then being able to join Acevo. I assume, of course, that you want to be a chief executive in the third sector: where else?
I am sure you have been laying the groundwork for years. But competition is tough and enthusiasm isn't enough. Here are my suggestions.
- Understand what the job is. You need to understand and accommodate the way in which organisations see their chief executives. A good CEO is the leader of the organisation, with the power to establish a compelling vision. You need to provide evidence that your career contains a combination of staff and resource responsibilities with contributions to strategy.
- Delivery. You may be brilliant at writing reports and you might have kissed the Blarney Stone, but if you don't deliver, you will not get far. What are your achievements? You should be actively seeking out opportunities to take on a major project to show delivery potential. If your job isn't allowing you to do this, go and talk to your CEO. Find out if there is a project you can take on to show your leadership potential.
- Take charge of your professional development. Are you one of those people that thinks it's your boss's job to manage your professional development? Next time you have an appraisal, ask your boss: "What do I have to do to get ahead?"
- Don't rely on recruiters. CEO jobs are not going to jump up on you.
Keep an eye out for advertisements and make contact with the key sector recruiters, letting them know you are ambitious for a CEO post. Make sure that people in the sector know you are around - you should be writing articles and letters, seeking out opportunities to speak at conferences and seminars, and networking.
- Excel in your job. Finally, you are going to get your CEO post largely on your reputation in your current post. Be brilliant at it. Have your current CEO singing your praises. To paraphrase a comment from a recent US Senate Confirmation Hearing, ensure you "kiss up, but don't kick down".
- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.