So, you want to be a CEO?

If you have aspirations of becoming a CEO or senior leader, one of the most important things, according to a former US President, is just to learn how to get things done.

Management magazine asked Stephanie Christopher, managing director of TEC and Vistage Worldwide in Australia and New Zealand, for her take on what aspiring leaders need to do to prepare themselves for a bigger leadership role.

What are the three most pivotal things young leaders can do to enhance their career?

  • Find a mentor: Having someone who can help you to see your own blind spots is incredibly important. A good mentor is someone who will listen, test and challenge your ideas and strategies.  They’ll also use their own experiences to help you to better predict the outcomes of your choices and to have confidence in your decision-making.


  • Build a network or inner circle: When young leaders seek counsel from within their own organisation it can erode trust and leave them vulnerable to criticism. Belonging to an external community or network of like-minded and experienced people is imperative for young leaders. This group will form the tribe you can rely on to be your brains trust, no-judgement sounding board and when you need it – your hype team.


  • Address imposter syndrome: First-time executives or leaders often battle against a gnawing belief that they’re not qualified or experienced enough to guide and manage others. It’s called imposter syndrome, and it can quickly become a career derailer for young leaders. Rather than letting feelings of imposter syndrome hold you back, consider how you can flip those intrusive thoughts to drive your own performance forward. Resilience and persistence are critical skills to focus on if you want to enhance your career as a leader.

Why/how have these three things made a difference?

New members to TEC often express their surprise at how lonely life is when you hold one of the top jobs. It’s important to know that no one can be a great leader on their own.

Stephanie Christopher

Truly effective leaders surround themselves with individuals they can trust and rely upon to provide fresh perspectives and support.

Is it the same for everyone wanting to climb the corporate ladder, or does it depend on the type of leadership they are seeking?

Many events, experiences and interactions will shape the trajectory of your career. Luck will also play a part!

What’s most important though is to focus on what you can learn from your setbacks and how to capitalise on opportunities. These are the skills that will really shape and influence your leadership journey.

As a network for leaders – how important is it to make those type of connections? 

 Instinct and judgment are two clear differentiators between new and seasoned leaders.

For many talented individuals, instinct comes naturally to them. However, judgement is a skill that is honed over time that will help you see which risks will pay off, and which will not.

Smart leaders know when they are operating on instinct alone to seek out the collective wisdom of their peers. The strength of TEC is that members benefit from a variety of perspectives, experience levels and industries when navigating new challenges.

Amongst your members over the years, are you seeing greater emphasis on any particular skills that are needed in potential CEOs? 

The same skills continue to be present when discussions about potential CEOs arise.

The first centres on effectiveness. Execution of strategy is a core skill that CEOs must embody to succeed. Having an impact on those around you and the work being achieved is key.

The second essential trait is the ability to lead through others. Great CEOs and leaders don’t take the limelight, rather, they focus on the value of developing and supporting their team.

Do you see young leaders today having different aspirations and ideas around leadership than the young leaders of 10 years ago may have had?

It’s always a challenge for new leaders to balance their vision and goals against the reality of day-to-day work, but this seems to be more pronounced in the current generation.

I see ambitious leaders of the future wanting to get to where they want to be instantly, rather than focusing on doing a great job in the role, they’re currently in. They worry about tomorrow’s problems and can lose sight of what matters most by becoming fixated on their next career move.

Former US President Barack Obama said: “Just learn how to get stuff done. No matter how small the problem or how big it is.”

These are words I think every leader, regardless of their experience, should hear and heed.

Earlier this month CEO coaching and peer advisory organisation for small and midsize businessesVistage, announced the acquisition oThe Executive Connection (TEC) Australia and New Zealand.  The acquisition will see TEC’s current member base (over a thousand CEOs and executive leaders) join Vistage’s 45,000 strong global network.  


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