There is nothing wrong with aspiring to become a CEO or other top executive, because it indicates a desire to transform yourself and become something greater and more accomplished.
Aspiration is a positive quality, and you should cultivate it within yourself.
In fact, the word “aspire” reaches back to Old French and Latin words for “breathe,” indicating that by aspiring to become a leader, you don’t just want the name plate on the corner office, you want to live and breathe leadership.
Successful CEOs don’t spring fully formed from a training program, but are shaped over years by experience and wisdom. While executive coaching cannot impart experience and wisdom, it can help anyone learn to make the most of their experiences and put what they have learned to work. Here are some things the aspiring CEO should consider if they want to work with an executive coach.
Can You Make It to the Top Faster?
Executive coaching does not bestow a fast track to the executive suite. That’s something you have to do yourself, through experience, hard work, and continual learning. Did Augustus suddenly appear on the scene of the Roman Empire, ready to fix everything and usher in an era of relative peace? Of course not. First, he had to pick up the pieces when his triad with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus fell apart. And after that it took years to build the framework for a republican state.
In other words, you don’t become “great” by having things easy. The road to the top may be short, but treacherous, or it may be longer and more meandering, but if you want to accomplish great things, you must have a base of experience first, and not all of that experience will be pleasant or predictable.
What executive coaching can do, however, is train the aspiring CEO in self-awareness, help them identify their strengths and improve on weaknesses, and identify skills gaps as well as create plans to address them.
You Can Improve Readiness for Leadership Opportunities
If you elect to work with a CEO coach before you actually become CEO, you may not rise to the top faster, but you will improve your readiness when leadership opportunities arise. This can have the effect of making an organization’s leadership transitions smoother and less jarring, because you will have taken specific steps to improve leadership skills beforehand.
The new CEO who has already gone through executive coaching can make a smoother transition.
It will still be up to you to meet goals, direct teams effectively, and demonstrate leadership in your current capacity. Moreover, you will still have to be a constant student of your industry, understand where it has been and in which direction it is moving. No CEO coach can do that for you.
Choose Wisely Before Investing in a CEO Coach
Executive coaching is an investment and it should pay off in measurable ways. While there is no single credential that identifies a highly trained CEO coach the way there is for, say, a surgeon or attorney, there are organizations that provide accreditation for coach training programs, and you’re smart to look for coaches who have been trained in these accredited programs. Perhaps the best known of these is the International Coach Federation (ICF) which has demanding qualifications for executive coach training programs that want to gain accreditation. Such accreditation indicates that the coach whose services you invest in has undergone rigorous training, and didn’t just decide to be a CEO coach one day and hang out a shingle.
Preparing for the Role of a Lifetime
If you aspire to be at the top of the organizational chart, then that is a worthy goal. In fact, many who aspire to make it to the top consider the CEO role as the capstone of a great career. Executive coaching can’t teach you how to run a pharmaceutical firm, for example, but it can help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses, develop the strengths, and address the weaknesses, while discovering more about your inner nature and your natural leadership style.
My work as an executive coach has taken me around the world and into organizations of every type imaginable. What the successful leaders of these organizations have in common is a commitment to excellence in leadership. Whether you’re already at the top of your career or are headed there, investing in yourself can pay off throughout the life of your career.