Written by Kay Vittee • Online since 7.06.2016 • Filed under Industry news

While there is nothing wrong with aiming for the metaphorical ‘corner office’ or running your own business – one day, there are many qualities needed to reach the top position of an organisation.

“Truthfully, you can’t just walk out of university and expect to instantly be executive material,” says Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions.

Vittee refers to research that has shown that the millennial generation (those born between the early 1980s to around 2000) are highly educated, self-confident, technologically savvy and ambitious. “They also crave career progression, and are impatient to achieve it,” explains Vittee.

In fact, according to Training Journal, millennials think they should be promoted within a couple of weeks of starting a new job and 83% of UK millennials actively disagree with the global perspective that people need to spend a minimum numbers of years in a job before they are promoted.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 99% of CEOs had university degrees. But, there are exceptions, such as Steve Jobs. CEOs also have, according to research by Forbes, credibility and competence.

“What’s certain is that South Africa needs entrepreneurs - young “high flyers” who want to run their own business. However, in a tough economy, it’s very competitive and you need to stand out to make an impact as a potential leader,” says Vittee.

She offers some essential skills and abilities for reaching CEO success:

  • A Type-A personality - Studies published in the International Journal of Business and Management have shown that top performing CEOs tend to want to be in control, have a need for high achievement, a willingness to take risks and a high tolerance for uncertainty. Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk is a good example of a successful entrepreneur who embodies these traits, as is CEO Siphiso Dabengwa of MTN. Even if you are not naturally like this, you can learn to adopt a different attitude.
  • Overseas experience – Many businesses want candidates with overseas experience. Look for and volunteer for overseas assignments as this kind of experience will set you apart. Khanyi Dhlomo, Founder and Managing Director of Ndalo Media, obtained an MBA in the USA before returning to SA to start her own company.
  • Build a life outside of your job - According to data collected by the Harvard Business Review, top performing CEOs are mostly married with children. Interestingly, they all have Bachelor's’ degrees, but less than a third have MBAs. Follow your passions and don’t neglect family, friends and hobbies. Barack Obama, even as president of the USA, still often takes time out with his family.
  • Break the mould - CEOs are often people who are not afraid to think out of the box, even risking failure, and many of them do fail multiple times before they are successful. Think of Richard Branson and Pick n Pay’s Raymond Ackerman as these types of leaders.
  • Determination against all odds - It’s harder for females to reach top positions but it can be done. Look to Dawn Mokhobo, Wendy Luhabe, Maria Ramos and Basetsana Khumalo as examples of successful female business leaders.

“It’s not likely that you’re just going to walk into a top position. However, if you work hard and engender some of the above qualities in yourself, it is likely that you’ll set yourself apart, be recognised and grow faster towards promotion than your peers,” concludes Vittee.

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