(I don't know why but for some reason my other question was "downvoted". I guess I need to re-phrase it for it to be more on-topic... please help me do so if it isn't!)

As you can guess from my nickname, I am an aspiring CEO. My dream is to lead large multinational operations one day with vast and complex supply chains and production processes. It could be an aircraft manufacturer, or a transport company, or some other producer of a large good.

(Note: I doubt I can start up my own company in that field, simply because it's too vast and impossible to do for one person alone. So I am not looking for a "CEO-of-myself" role, no thanks!)

The question is: are there any (and if yes, which) specific business areas and experiences one should be exposed to in order to reach such a high level of responsibility?

Do they only need to be business-savvy or do they need to have worked in a core business function like operations or logistics?

(If for some random reason you dislike some part of the question please don't close this and instead help rephrase it or suggest what is needed to rephrase it... thanks)

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    What talents do you have to go with the dream? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 21 '14 at 10:57
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    I like organizing and coordinating, in a very general sense. I enjoy (and have been told that I am good at) encouraging and coaching people. – AspiringCEO Jun 21 '14 at 11:04
  • If you have to ask how you could get there, you cannot. – Peter M. - stands for Monica Jun 23 '14 at 17:10

To a great extent background of the CEO depends on the company, and on what their core challenges are. Some CEOs come up through finance. Others come up through sales, engineering, marketing, purchasing (supply chain), manufacturing, shipping (logistics) or strategic business development (planning, mergers and acquisitions). So, figure out how to do a great job and climb the ladder in the company for which you work.

To a great extent, executive work is relationship work. The more curiosity you have about other people, their stories, their strengths, and their visions, the more you'll get to know lots of people. Much power is the power of persuasion and leadership.

Many CEOs are systems thinkers. That is, they can look behind the surface of any operation and have an instinctive understanding of how it ties into other operations. There's a book called The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge that talks about that. Books by Atul Gawande or Malcolm Gladwell talk about systems too. You can do executive work without a talent for systems thinking, but it's harder.

Business school (at an A-list school) will help, for two reasons. One, you'll do a lot of case studies of successes and failures, and learn the lore of business administration. Two, you'll develop relationships.

Finally, it's sort of a Zen thing. The more you focus on becoming a CEO, the less likely you are to become one.

Instead, "be here now." Serve your customers, employees, suppliers, and investors with excellence.

It's like saying "I want to be a movie star." You don't choose to be a star, your audience chooses that for you. YOU can choose to be a skilled actor.

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    Add to this reading list other books about leadership - Hacking Leadership, Leaders Eat Last, Good to Great, Great by Choice. Read biographies of great leadership - the Starbucks books, for example. Then take opportunities to practice leadership when they arise. If you lead well as an employee, you will be noticed. – MJ6 Jun 21 '14 at 22:50
  • CEOs are also people who first and foremeost are political. They understand office politics and they have connections already in high places. You need to build a network of people in high places if you aspire to this. You get hired by people on the boards of companies, you need to make friends with such people. – HLGEM Jun 23 '14 at 22:48

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