For most upwardly focused professionals, reaching the C-suite is the pinnacle achievement of their careers. And those who have made it, whether they worked their way up from the mailroom or started with little more than a spark of an idea in their garage, will tell you it doesn’t typically happen overnight. Most often, reaching the C-suite takes years of dedication and hard work paired with creativity, innovative thinking, and developing leadership skills.
No matter where you are in your journey to the top, what better way to stay motivated to reach the C-suite than to reflect on the words and experiences of some of the business world’s most successful CEOs.
“For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better”
– Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Inc. (Google’s parent company)
Simply put, great CEOs aren’t afraid to dream big. Some people are just wired to instinctively question the status quo and go against established norms—often in the face of naysayers who don’t believe in their audacious vision.
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”
– Oprah Winfrey, CEO of Harpo Productions
No path to the top comes without a few roadblocks along the way. The most successful leaders are those who refuse to dwell on setbacks and immediately start focusing on not only what to do next, but also what they can learn from the experience.
“Go find out if you can make your product. Once you make it, stop projecting what’s going to happen and go find out whether your product can sell. Find out whether someone is willing to take hard-earned cash out of their pocket and exchange it for your product.”
– Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour
Keen insight into what your customers truly want and a results-driven approach to providing it are key to reaching the top and staying there.
“Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
To thine own self be true. Don’t get so hung up on how you’re perceived that you completely forget who you are. Some of the most successful CEOs started with little more than an idea and unwavering faith in their own strengths, insight, and ability to make it a reality.
“CEOs and leaders have to be life-long students. Not just students in the sense of attending courses or reading a book. You’ve gotta learn how to read widely, walk the market, look at the trends in the marketplace, make connections that don’t seem obvious. And start painting pictures of what the future could be.” – Indra Nooyis, CEO of PepsiCo
Until the world stops changing, technology stops advancing, and people stop asking “what if,” a great CEO’s dedication to life-long learning will endure. They put in the work to actively seek out opportunities to build their skills and increase their understanding.
What’s your favorite quote or piece of advice from a CEO? Let us know in the comments section below.