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In "How to Become CEO. The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization," author Jeffrey J. Fox expands on 75 factors to help a person become the head honcho, the top banana, the big cheese, the boss. I’ve selected 21 from Fox’s list to highlight (with a combination of Fox’s writings and my own comments):

1.  Don’t Expect the Personnel Department to Plan Your Career – Human Resource departments do not have a grand plan for you. Your career growth is your responsibility, and no one else’s.

2.  Get and Keep Customers – Why do so few people really work to get and keep customers? Because dealing with customers is tough. But to know your customers is to know your competition, and often your company’s future.   

3.  Keep Physically Fit – Ninety percent of all people climbing the corporate ladder are out of shape. Being fit will give you the energy and motivation to succeed.

4.  Do Something Hard and Lonely – Do something that you know very few other people are willing to do. All great and successful athletes remember the endless hours of seemingly unrewarded toil. So do CEOs.

 5. Never Write a Nasty Memo – It’s unprofessional, regardless of the circumstances. Plus, the world of business is very small; it could come back to bite you in any number of ways. Spend your energy on positive things.

6.  Think for One Hour Everyday – Plan, dream, scheme, think, recharge, calculate. Figure out how to get things done. Take mental stock. Do this every day.

7.  Know Everybody by Their First Name – To most people, there is no sound sweeter than their name remembered and pronounced correctly. People will appreciate it.

8.  Make One More Call – The difference between the successful person and the average is inches. The person who goes the extra step or two every day is going to be the best.

9.  Don’t Take Work Home from the Office – If you always have to take work home you are: (a) not managing your time properly; (b) boring; (c) wasting your precious nonwork hours; and (d) all of the above.

10.  Eat in Your Hotel Room – Spend your nights away from home, family, and friends working. Get some things done.

11.  Send Handwritten Notes – They stand out. They are personal, and never out of style. Send one handwritten note a week…for starters.

12.  Don’t Hide an Elephant – The longer you hide a big problem the more you increase its severity. If possible, turn a big problem into an opportunity to shine.

13.  Be Visible: Practice WACADAD – Promote yourself within the company, but not in a self-aggrandizing manner. Don’t talk about how good you are, prove it with action. Remember WACADAD. "Words are cheap and deeds are dear."

14.  Always Say "Yes" to a Senior Executive Request – Always say "I can do it" when a top manager asks. Then, give her more than she asked for, sooner than expected. People who get the job done are the ones who get the top jobs.

15.  Never Surprise Your Boss – Bosses don’t like surprises, good or bad. They want to be informed, in control and on top of things. It is a discourtesy to keep your boss in the dark and he will begin to mistrust you. 

16.  Overinvest in People – Hire the best people. Attract, motivate, train, and reward the best people. Leaders know that people make things happen. Hire people according to the three "I’s": "I" for integrity, "I" for the "I can do it" attitude, and "I" for intelligence.

17.  "Stop, Look, and Listen" – CEOs reflect, think, consider, ponder, observe, probe, and listen. Train yourself to always be on "high receive." Good listeners are considered great conversationalists. Listening is equated with wisdom and intelligence.

18.  Homework, Homework, Homework – Many people in business never really work hard. But there is a lot of activity, often busywork. This is the "rocking chair syndrome" – lots of movement, but they’re not going anywhere. Hard workers do the hard things and they do their homework. Success in projects is anticlimactic. Homework preordains it.

19.  Treat All People as Special – Excellent managers make people feel that they are: asked, not questioned; overpaid, not underpaid; measured, not monitored; people, not personnel; sold on what to do, not told; instrumental, not instruments; workers, not worked; contributors, not costs; needed, not heeded.

20.  Be a Credit Giver, Not a Credit Taker – Give everybody 100% credit for the work they do. Many managers feel that if their people look too good, they’ll be diminished. The credit taker is insecure, dishonest, and known to all. Give proper credit and you will get your due.

21.  See the Job Through the Salespeople’s Eyes – Very few products sell themselves. Yet, selling is the key to the enterprise. Spend time in the field. Sell if you can. No matter your function or role, you must learn what goes on "out there."


So, all of you CEOs-to-be, you need to get busy working on the particular factors that will result in your steady advancement to the top. Or, if a job in the corner office is not for you, embrace these ideas to help you perform better, regardless of your professional aspirations.