What It Takes to Become a CEO

by Diana Drake

Evan Spiegel, the 28-year-old co-founder and CEO of the company Snap, Inc., the Los Angeles-based parent of Snapchat, is often seen as an inspiration to future business leaders. He became a billionaire in 2015, not long after launching Snapchat in 2011, and has been referred to as the youngest CEO of a public company. His business has grown quickly from student project to publicly traded powerhouse. Snap’s initial public offering in March 2017 brought Spiegel further into the limelight when it commanded a listing price of $17 a share.

Spiegel has also shown a knack for turning disappointment into practical life lessons. Snap’s share price has fallen from its IPO highs to about $12, as its earnings have disappointed investors. The media-shy Spiegel admitted in a recent Inc. magazine story that he needs to do a better job of explaining to investors how his company works.

With young CEOs like Spiegel in mind, Wharton Global Youth wondered how the next generation of senior managers could groom themselves for leadership roles — so we turned to one of the most experienced leadership minds in the business.

“Evan Spiegel’s appointment as CEO is a kind of proof-of-concept that those of almost any age can become a senior leader of a company, even a chief executive of an enterprise,” says Wharton management professor Michael Useem, who is also director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. “You don’t necessarily need 40 years of working experience or 50 years of wisdom to reach the corner office.”

Useem, the author of many books on leadership, including The Leader’s Checklist, offers the following advice to high school students who aspire to rise quickly through the corporate ranks or to grab that coveted CEO title:

  • “Don’t aim to be a chief executive as such; virtually every CEO I have spoken to has said they never planned to become a CEO but through a series of events they did became a CEO. Take on every job, every assignment and every responsibility fully, make it happen, execute. As those engagements by you begin to accumulate, people look at you as good material to become a senior manager or maybe even a chief executive.
  • “Put your hand up to take every opportunity possible to do what you have not done before. So, if you have not been on a student council, this is a good time to be thinking of becoming a candidate, even if you are temperamentally shy and introverted. If you are able to be on a sports team, get out there and do it. There is no better guide to developing your talent than you yourself. Do that by looking at others who are doing well such as teachers or coaches, and by reading great literature on how to make a difference in business and beyond. All of that has to be self-directed by you. You are the impresario; you are the producer of yourself.
  • “Think strategically, which means looking at what is happening before it happens. If you are on the high school hockey team, you are looking to where the puck is going to be and not where it is now. Next, decide decisively. That means being resolute and being willing to make a decision when you have a lot of information and a lot of confidence, but not 100% of each. So do your due diligence, but don’t suffer from analysis paralysis.
  • “Finally, communicate persuasively. If you are a part of a high school production of a play or musical, or volunteer to become involved in student government, those are methods to be more stage present, and get a stage voice to get your message across to the room. Once you have people’s attention, focus on storytelling skills. They want to know where we are going together, why we are going there, where are we coming from, and how are we getting to a more promised land.”

Back to that young CEO Spiegel for a moment, whose wealth tops $3 billion, according to Forbes. He has admitted that he has made missteps in his leadership role, such as not always being the best communicator. As Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli points out, “Young correlates almost perfectly with inexperience.” Even if you reach that corner office before most, you are likely to be learning on the job.

Ultimately, it may also be useful to have a sense of purpose on your path to senior management, and not merely a drive for power, prestige and prosperity. During the 2018 Code Conference on May 29, Spiegel discussed values in the tech industry with journalist Kara Swisher (see Related Links for the full interview and Spiegel’s thoughts on SnapChat’s redesign). He said, “So, obviously, life is not about making money. Life’s not about winning awards. It’s not about winning competitions or whatever. Life is really about having an impact on the world, changing the way that people experience the world, changing the way that you experience the world.”

What values will you have as CEO?

Related Links

Conversation Starters

Do you have a CEO role model at a startup or established company around the world? If so, who is it? Why do you admire that person?

Take a moment to watch the ‘Related Links’ video where Evan Spiegel is interviewed by Kara Swisher. Snapchat’s redesign has been met with resistance. As a Snapchat user, were you upset over the changes? Why or why not?

What does Michael Useem mean when he says, “You are the impresario; you are the producer of yourself”?

12 comments on “What It Takes to Become a CEO

  1. This article has many good points to talk about. First of all, answering th question made: when Michael Useem says about you being your impresarion, he is relacting the fact that every action of a pearson brings him (or her) consequences, poditive or negative, so, you’re always investing on yourself, you’re always constrocting yourself and so, you’re your impresario.
    Other incredible thing I’d like to state about are the parts that made me realize that some failures are not a reason to give up. As said in the article, Spiegal’s shares once fell a lot, but he past over it. It’s also seen in the last paragraph of the article.
    Also it’s very constructive to see an specialist saying that it’s not necessary to have many years of experience in order to turn into a good leader and get in a high position. To see that the hard work is valorized by those who are in the top is really
    And last, but not least, the four topics listed as caracteristics of a good CEO are awesome. Turning into a leader naturaly, not forcing your path into it, will certainly make a best CEO; using every oportunity you have, going into every door you opened; getting the most life experience you can, after all, is trought it that we grow the most and, finally, being persuasive and capeble of convincing others (but not manipulating them, something similar to “nudging” in economics) so they may follow you knowing that it’s the best, they may “obey” you even if there’s no order (it’s not a good thing to “order” people…).
    Finally, as CEO I’d consider important being open to changes and reviews. Also I’d try to know as much as possible those who follow me so I could lead them more properly, using each one strenghts. I’d try to achive my personal objectives but doing good thing in the process (I like social

  2. When Mr.Useem proclaimed, “You are the impresario; you are the producer of yourself,” the first thing that came to my mind was actually a belief that I myself have held throughout high school: no matter wherever an individual is in his/her stage of development in life, in terms of productivity, efficiency, and communication, if he/she takes it upon themselves to learn and practice new skills that are necessary for furthering their development, then that individual would be priming themselves for success. And, given the context of the paragraph from which this quote was taken, it would seem that Mr.Useem shares a similar point of view. If one is able to recognize a problem that he may have, there are a variety of ways to fix the problem and turn a weakness into a strength. For example, I used to be a very shy individual; recognizing this, I entered myself into various speech and debate competitions. These competitions not only forced me to take action and actually practice a skill that I was uncomfortable doing (communicating in a persuasive, informative, and effective manner), but it also exposed me to other individuals that had different strengths and weaknesses than me while also sharing a similar mindset to what I had on progress, self-development, and the world in general. The same can be said to someone who is very unproductive; there are so many books out there, such as “The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey and “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, that I myself have read and implemented, that can inform one of the steps that need to be taken in order to be a more efficient and productive worker (after all, how many people can say that they are as productive as they can be?) All in all, I believe that Mr.Useem is stating that it is in your own hands to take it upon yourself to learn the skills that are necessary to be successful, whether it be the practice more than anyone else for a math competition, read up on how to be more productive, read the news, books on investing, or even literature on how to be a better communicators (a great recommendation would be “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie). It is always important to be a part of various organizations and clubs so that you may experience different opportunities that will definitely help one to narrow down what he/she wants to accomplish in life.

    As it can be seen, I do resonate with the points this article makes about being an effective communicator and taking it upon yourself to look for new opportunities and expand your horizons; this not only paves the way for more discussion and the spread of knowledge amongst individuals but also creates new learning experiences that are vital to everyone’s goal in life.

    I also agree with what the article states about having a clear purpose or goal that one would like to accomplish. It has been shown numerous times through studies and personal experiments that writing down your goals and taking active measures to be constantly reminded of them helps to make individuals more motivated and aware of the standards that they set for themselves. And what’s more, is that after you accomplish a goal, you will only want more as you would have grown to enjoy the process and revel in that sense of success; I, along with many of my friends, can personally vouch for this, whether it be in setting your sights on a perfect SAT score, placing at the international science fair, running a club at school, to even setting a new personal record in the gym. I believe that if one sets REALISTIC goals, accomplishes them, and then continue to set even more goals that are difficult to accomplish, he/she will be able to take a very focused approach to what they want to achieve in their lives.

    And finally, of course, the article made an EXCEPTIONAL point that made sense to me as soon as I read it. Do not aim to become the CEO, but rather take on difficult tasks that provide you with new opportunities and accomplish them to the very best of your abilities. While this may seem to clash with my perspective on goal setting, further analysis will show that it actually doesn’t. For example, we can take a student that is struggling with math; he/she has a C in the class. The first goal that he/she would have to take is to diagnose her areas of practice and make a plan of action that is comprehensive and effective; this can be done by checking with teachers, doing his/her own research, and taking advice from other students that are performing better in math. Notice how the goal is NOT to get a 100 on the next BC Calculus test which is in one week (or another far-reaching goal). While the student drills the weak areas, he/she can also have a conversation with various math teachers and students about math, school, or even other goals and aspects of life; this communication will not only expose the student to other perspectives on the academic journey but can also give him/her more insight as to what he/she wants to do themselves. Finally, after the student becomes proficient in the diagnosed weaker areas, the next goal is to get a B in the class. Then, the next goal is to get an A in the class. The next goal would then be to miss no more than one question on a test. And then the next goal would be to get a 100 on a test and the consistently get 100s on all the tests to come. At this point, a weakness in math could have become a proficiency in an area of study that has a lot of application to the real world and can even be used to extend to Applied Mathematical Studies, Finance, programming, or even the application of the logical thinking process involved with solving complex mathematical equations. Similarly, for one wanting to become a CEO and run an ENTIRE company, it is important to first ensure that you are accomplishing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish to the best of your abilities. And, if you recognize that your abilities have significant room for improvement, then take the steps necessary in order to fix your weaknesses, and then complete your tasks with an unprecedented rate of success while networking and “putting yourself out there.” Once you can accomplish something in a way that almost no one else can do, you will effectively open up new doors for you to showcase, use, and improve your skills, which will open up even better opportunities. I firmly believe that this approach not only applies to those that want to become a CEO but also to those that want to become leaders in other professions and/or want to accomplish something that has never been done before (or that a very small number of individuals have accomplished).

    To summarize, this article reinforced the fact that it is in your hands to improve yourself to the point where you are recognized as nothing but a leader, a hard worker, a communicator, and a problem solver that suits the role of becoming a CEO and leading a company.

    • Naveen, your comment is very insightful and tying in your personal experience allowed myself to connect with your points. People often create their own walls they have to climb over by never leaving their comfort zone. As you mentioned with your experience in taking it upon yourself to join speech and debate competitions, you recognized the weakness you had and set out to overcome it. There are a lot of people, of all different ages, that do not have that initiative and are willing to just accept their weakness. Instead of trying to fix the problem long term, they look for temporary fixes. I also resonate with your stance on setting realistic goals for yourself and going after them. In high school your expectations are set very high and someone else always has a goal that they set for you. For example, in my life my mother is always the one putting pressure on me with my school work. Only a 100 is acceptable and if I received a 99 it’s, “why didn’t you get 100?”. Yes, I understand that this approach is her form of encouragement, but I understand where my weaknesses are and establish my own goal. English is my worst subject at school so I set a goal of receiving an A on all my essays. I know that my writing is not the best, as you can see :), but I know that without effort I can achieve a B. So, I put the extra effort when planning out what I am going to write, take time editing my work, and if it’s allowed, I ask my peers to read it over. We need to set our own goals that we believe we can achieve, if we put in the amount of work to do so. However, I disagree with you about not aiming to become the CEO. If someone’s goal is to become the CEO of a company, they can have that goal. They just have to be willing to put in the work, by taking the difficult jobs and putting in the hours to show their worth to the company. Overall, thought your comment was a great response to the article and you really developed all the points you spoke about.

  3. “What makes a good CEO, and what values should they have?”

    It’s a good question, and it’s certainly striking enough to make a reader pause and reflect. But even though it is a question of merit, I believe the question should be “What makes a good person? And more specifically, what makes a good leader?”

    A CEO is not necessarily different from the average street vendor or 9-5 worker. Additionally, a leader is not necessarily a person with a title but rather someone who is able to influence the communities around them, whether positive or negative. Thus, in asking what components make up a wonderful CEO, we are asking ourselves the most basic question about what it means to be a good person and how best to lead the people around us. To me, good CEOs hold five main qualities:
    1) A Focus on the People: Though many companies have HR departments and often provide benefits to employees, most often prioritize results and money over their own people. Often times, it can be easy to view employees as just another expense or commodity to be bought and sold, yet companies and sometimes larger CEOs forget that people are the driving force behind the success of the company and that a focus on worker flexibility and happiness is essential to maintaining a strong foundation for company culture and prosperity.
    2) The Ability to Lead by Example: Staying humble, refusing to slack in responsibilities, and being available to company members or even team members who require assistance are just examples of how a CEO can lead by example. Company culture shouldn’t be one of coercion or aversion but rather one of respect, and that culture begins with the CEO. Whether it’s a cheerful “Good morning!” in the early hours of the day or the willingness to put in late hours to help an analyst on his/her project, the ability to inspire others and foster joy within the workspace is most recognizable through the CEO’s leadership and perception in the environment.
    3) Generosity: Many CEOs have made it big. With millions in their bank account, it’s sometimes easy to forget the struggles of others and those in need. A good person, leader, or CEO should often remember to give back to the community whenever possible and cultivate a sense of appreciation for all that they have been given. Granted, a CEO’s position could only have been earned through their own perseverance and hard work, yet even so, the ability to build a better community instead of simply a better company is what separates good CEOs from regular CEOs. In addition, I believe that good CEOs also look toward the future. Not simply focused on the “here and now” of their company, good CEOs act as mentors to younger members of society who are also eager to take a dive and explore the business realm. Taking time out of one’s day isn’t expected of any CEO, yet it is the humility to allow others the same opportunity to thrive and the respect for people outside the company that show a leader’s willingness to go above and beyond.
    4) The Integrity to do the Right Thing: It may seem hard to maintain oversight of all the activities that go on within your organization, and it may even seem tedious to make sure everything in the company is transparent, yet taking an active stance of supervision can help ensure lawful and honest approaches to doing business, both for the betterment of the community and the company. Though rare in nature, examples of mass scandals like the 2002 WorldCom event or the 2008 Hewlett-Packard spying scandal show that a lack of transparency is not only devastating to the company and the people involved but also to innocent bystanders. Implementing pro-whistle blower policies or holding weekly team meetings with the company to discuss what occurred throughout can be very beneficial to preserving the company’s integrity.
    5) The Ability to Persevere and Maintain: Leading a corporation is no easy feat, but in addition to following the traits above, leaders must continuously maintain the ability to be generous, lead by example, etc. It makes no difference if a leader is wonderful in the first several weeks if he is unable to stay consistent in performance and falls off soon after. The CEO or leader of any group is like a captain navigating a certain course, and like all captains, each CEO is certain to run into a storm at some point. Keeping calm and persevering through the tough tides and institutional problems that may arise is an essential trait of any leader who takes the helm.

    So… who is my CEO role model, and why do I admire that person?

    Some would choose Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or even Bill Gates, and they are certainly great choices, but my role model is a more personal choice. My role model is Brint Ryan, CEO of Ryan LLC. A CEO whose company has been constantly growing for the past decade and a half, Brint focuses his leadership on the ideals stated above. Whether it’s an emphasis on the people through the company-wide MyRyan, which allows moms and students to take on a more flexible work schedule and/or location to fit their needs, or the nation-wide Ryan Foundation, which volunteers a multitude of hours and donates millions for those in need, Brint crafted his company around character traits that make a good person. In fact, as I was looking for a summer opportunity to get a head-start in finance, I emailed Brint, asking if he would be willing to meet with me and discuss the optimal path I should take. And though he only knew my name and school, which I provided to him in the email, he happily sacrificed an hour of his time to help me become the better person I am today. And though I had no family connections in the world of business and my only skill was my ability to persuasively converse from years of debating on the national circuit, Brint gave me the opportunity to work alongside like-minded fascinating financial leaders of his company over the summer.

    As Michael Useem once said, “You are the producer of yourself.”

    Taking on the responsibility of shaping your own life can be scary, but it is indisputable that only you can control your path to success. To ensure you are a good person, leader, and/or CEO, it is imperative that you focus on the people, maintain a generous and honest approach in daily affairs, and lead by example. I believe that if you follow this approach and continually attempt to achieve higher and seek opportunities, a successful life will come your way. It won’t be easy, but anything is possible if you put your best foot forward in everything that you do, plan strategically, and communicate. And even if you aren’t the top Forbes CEO or a CEO at all, you will be glad knowing you led a fulfilling life that positively impacted the world.

    “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” – Alexander the Great

    • Hi Max
      First of all I’d like to say: what an incredible comment. You really got into the essence of a real leader and I agree with you in most (if not all) parts. Principally with the idea that a good leader is, before anything else, a good person. As Peter Drucker said: “Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things”, and it’s not just moralism, but also the conclusion one can obtain after a series of logical thoughts. After all, a leader is just a leader if those supposed to follow him considers so, and they (probably) only will do it if his seem as a good person. I will try not get into the discussion about “what is good” too much here, or else I’ll lose my focus, but it’s a really wide concept, so here it will be better to restrain it into what I call “Social Good”, that represents what the society (or a specific group) calls good.
      About the “focusing on people”, well I just say that it’s also the best way to focus on money too. I mean, following this policy, a leader will get better results. We can conclude it analyzing by the perspective that every action of everyone has an intent. Aristotle, in Ethics to NIcomaco, if I’m not mistaken, stated that this attempt was to achieve happiness, and so he called it the Summum Bonum. So basically, if a CEO makes his employees’s work bring them happiness, they will be more efficient them ever. This can be made not only by giving a better payment, actually, it isn’t a good way either. Being gentle with them and making them feel realized and proud by doing their work is a good mean to do this. Fortunately, a great way of making their job be something that gives them the feeling of accomplishment is by making it cause a good impact on the world, like making donations based on the company profit. This way they will want to produce more, and here we get into the point of being gentle too.
      A leader also has to be confident, so people may trust him, but he might not be arrogant! He has to work together with those who follow him. He must not just tell the way, a true leader has to “know the way, go the way and SHOW the way”(John C. Maxwell). To be humble is essential, he can never ever think that he’s above other people. If he does so, he will never be able to truly reach and connect to them (an essential thing for a leader), not because of he being superior to anyone, after all he is not, but due to his ignorance that makes he believe that he does not depend on others. A leader has to learn with every kind of experience he has, using this to always try to “predict” things, and every time he fails (or see other failing) in this, he must absorb and grow with it. And also, it’s necessary to be open to critics and opinions, listening the ideas of those who believes (and cares) for him, even because “no matter how good you think you are as a leader… people around you will have all kinds of ideas of how you can get better”(Jim Yong Kim).
      One more characteristic that a leader must have is ambition. Of course, accompanied by the desire of good things. It’s not just a matter of where you get, nor just how you get there, but a combination of both! It’s about the impact you have on the world, about the history you write, about the legacy you leave! And well, a good leader has to make an epic! Something memorable, even because the more he accomplishes, more the people trust and follow him, and so he is capable of doing even more incredible things! If you want to correct the many problem were immersed in, you have to make your impact as big as possible. Ray Kroc said that a leader quality is reflected by the standards he sets to himself, and it makes a lot of sense, after all, the first requirement for doing big things, is to believe that you can do these big things! And then, you’re able to pursue them. And also, you have to work very hard and don’t give up. It’s the only way (at least, the only that I know) to get into the top and to make great things.
      In the end, the role of a leader is to give his best in order of helping people to “bloom out” their best! And I believe that this text, and your’s, Max, are “brief” summaries of what is needed to this properly and efficiently.
      Just remembering: “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, the boss drives,” – Theodore Roosevelt.

    • The modern view of what a leader remains heavily influenced by the distinction between managers and leaders and therefore appreciate the distinction that both of you, Max and Ícaro, have drawn. Additionally, I do agree that the values mentioned thus far are important for leader’s to ensure their (and their organization’s) success, however I do disagree on what a leader’s main objective is. While it is tremendously important for leaders to be likable and confident, that is only a part of their primary objective and role within any organization: to create and nurture a set of common values and goals. Personal values are important, but communicating those values is what separates leaders from the general population. The clearest representation of the difference in our nuanced opinions lies the varied interpretations of the famous Peter Drucker line Ícaro mentioned: “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” Personally, my takeaway from Drucker in that specific section of his article was not necessarily that leaders must be the moral stalwarts for their organization but rather that the direction that a leader takes for the organization must fit in with the company’s culture and values and therefore be interpreted as “right” by those who make up the organization. I do find it important to note, however, that pretending to have certain values or attidtudes is almost never effective: leaders should not be moral because they want their organizations to be, they should want their organizations to be moral because they are.
      I think Spegiel hit the nail on the head with his analysis of his own leadership that communication not just of details, but broader values as well, is key. I’ve come to the same conclusion myself from my own experiences as a leader and a member of various organizations. One of my models for leadership is the former President of Engineering on my highschool robotics team, because despite not being the best speaker or writer, his vision of and commitment to our team was so strong that it never failed to inspire, even when our own morale fell low.

      • Hi Rahul,
        Things like “Moral” and “Right” are quite variable, I think. Actually, they have a wide window of different “meanings” since their interpretation depends on a pearson’s concepts. But as I said, here it’s better for us to look it as the “society’s good”, in other words, what the society we’re immersed in considers, as a whole group, as good. Of course, there are discordances in some points but almost all thinks that following the human rights is the right thing to do, as an simple example. But well, I’m in accordance with what you said, so I think that we’re not in a disagreement here. First, I want to give my apologies if I expressed badly what I wanted to say and so I want to explain why I think that me and you (and probably Max) are defending, in their core, the same points here: when we say that a leader must be moral, yes, this moral must be in line with his organization moral, or else people will not follow him, at least, not as much as if their morals were compatible. So a leader will not lead the company morals, but to be a leader, one must have his moral at least similar to its. It’s basically what I said in here: “After all, a leader is just a leader if those supposed to follow him considers so, and they (probably) only will do it if his seem as a good person”.
        As an exemplification we can imagine a cosmetics company. This company, since its foundation, is completely against harming/using animals. What are the chances of someone who wants to do so being elected as its leader? Not very big, I think. And if he were elected, would him practice this, knowing that his employes would repudiate his actions? I don’t think so. And then, starting from my point basically get to your point, and conclude that a leader must be moral upon his followers eyes.
        I’d like to enrich this topics with some personal statements: not much more than one year ago I joined a social project called Projeto Espalhando Sorrisos, PES (Project Spreading Smiles). It was a new born project with few volunteers and I was not experienced but wanted to help as much as possible, so I was always doing one or other thing. About three months after its founders elected me to be a director with them, even knowing the personal complications I might have, since \i was a fifteen years old boy living without my parents in a new state (I had just moved home). Fortunately, things went great and now PES has more than 200 volunteers and well, it’s pretty to see its effects on society and on the teenagers that participate. And why they choose me? Basically due to my integrity, commitment
        and love for its cause because most of the required abilities I acquired (or polished) after that, with the experience I had. And why has everything gone right? Well, part of it was because I knew who was with me. I know my volunteers and also I became friend of many. Of course, in big company it would not be possible, but the idea is that to manage people (and “‘bloom out’ their best” as a said in my previous comment) one need to try to connect to them, personally or at least by linking their morals, values and goals.
        Another thing that I’d like to highlight is the importance of this “moral” thinking and established values for a company’s grow. In PES once, to raise resources (money), since we’re a social project and need it to act (we visit non-profit institutions like orphanages), we made a raffle. It was a big success but, many volunteers helped selling them and people bought a lot, but they were not seeking the prize, they were buying because they knew that this way they would be helping a beautiful cause. Companies that have strong values tends to be more accepted by the population in general. And this case reminds me of another trait that is good for a leader to have: the ability of identifying the right people to join him. In the raffle ocasion, there were many volunteers selling them by their own will, they offered to help and did an very efficient job. But also I remember that in the IYPT competition, two members my team just wasn’t collaborating, independently of how much I incentivated them, how many nudging strategies I used, they did not care at all. Due to this, two others gave up and so I have to do almost all the work by myself. We got the the Brazilian finals but only this. Part of this failure was my fault, because as the leader of a five person team I should select more the participants and sought more for good team members. Also when I participated in Wharton’s Investment Competition, two of my five-members team were not showing up at all (again…). And, to worsen, one of them was our leader. We were stuck near the 200th position, but we needed to change it, so I basically started coordinating the other two that were active and them we did not wait anymore the others, made the decisions by ourselves. In the and we did not make it to the global finals but ended in a relatively good position (around 20th if I’m not mistaken). This ability of discerning people (also applied in choosing the right person for a certain job) is something important that I think we didn’t discuss. I imagine that one of the reasons that make the former President of Engineering on your highschool robotics team be a good leader is that the team members are interested in doing what they’re supposed to do, right?
        Thanks for your attention.

  4. 1). aEverybody has a role model they look up to. Unlike most people who idolize well-known CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I idolize my father, Jin Hyun Park a CEO and chairman of a medium/big sized semiconductor company. My father is not the CEO of a fortune 500 company that is well known through the media. However, my father who I will be referring to as Mr. Park in the comment is a person who is respected and idolized by those who meet him and have done business with him. Aside from him being my father, I idolize him for various reasons. One being he respects and treats the janitors at his company like he would respect and treat a CEO of a different company like. Second, he cares for his employees and his family before himself. A CEO meets and networks with thousands of people throughout his lifetime. Being able to leave a positive impact on everyone he meets is a respectful, yet quite impossible doing. However, he always attempts to do so by making sure he takes responsibility for his actions. To him, success is not making a clear mark to people that he is wealthy, powerful, and above them. To him, success is making a difference and getting respect from people the rightful way. Dealing with large sums of money and responsibility it is hard to keep morality and virtue in the business world. However, by idolizing my father, Mr. Park, I was able to change the attitude I dealt with people with. Which brought immediate change to my life.

    It is widely questioned what values make a CEO successful. Even though there are values in countless amounts. The three prioritized values are:
    1). Show & Prove; CEOs must be able to prove a success and execute their goals by proving with examples.
    2). Having the will to continuously learn and adapt; In the market like the current where the world is changing constantly with new technology coming up every day, it is crucial for the CEO to continuously learn and adapt to the markets.
    3). Humbleness and Generosity; No matter how successful or wealthy a CEO may be it is important to always acknowledge those who have less than them.

    You are the impresario; you are the producer of yourself. This is a vague statement that could be interpreted in many ways. The best way to interpret it would be controlling and constructing your own way to success. Being a CEO means a life full of ongoing missions and burdens. Being a producer of yourself is an important concept to be aware of.

    • Hi Joshua! Thank you for sharing your story about your father. I truly loved reading about all the ways he inspires you and treats people with respect and dignity.

  5. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This adage is a response to Mr. Useem’s quote, “you are the impresario, you are the producer of yourself.” Franklin’s words mark how people can produce themselves: to be proactive and plan things out before they happen undesirably. And this is the single most important quality I admire in a good CEO. They must seize every opportunity, or else they would not be where they are now. Behind all this opportunity-seeking must come desire to learn and a well-planned course of action. As reiterated in the article, if a student aspires to be in the corner office one day, they must plan to center their interests around leadership-building activities. Only the true contenders would have the initiative to step out of their comfort zones. But those that fail to pursue such interests in their high school careers start lower than their ambitious peers.

    What makes Franklin’s quote so difficult to swallow, though, is its logical reversal. The harsh reality is that if you succeed to plan, you do not plan to succeed immediately. And this is why Useem advises people to not be so focused directly on the end goal of CEO: having idealized expectations during the process tends to discourage people. Everyone will fall during the their pursuit, and only those with the enough grit can get back up. No one can simply make a one-step leap to the finish until one has accomplished every baby step in the process.

    In light of this article, I remember my own journey when I decided to run for student council the end of my freshman year. My motivation was to become more comfortable with public speaking and more open to express my opinions. Knowing that I was neither the most popular nor the most outgoing person, I needed to show myself highly with my affable and diligent nature. I was focused on how to campaign through social media and face-to-face interactions. Alongside, I utilized the option of putting up 10 campaign posters throughout the school to publicize myself. I spent hours creating the magnificent pieces in Adobe Photoshop, making sure “to take on my responsibilities fully.” On the other hand, many of my competitors who ran for re-election did not even bother to create a poster. For those that did, some were merely recycled from the previous year or a copy-and-paste collage. Those people thought the poster was not the make-it or break-it factor. And alarmingly, they were only focused on planning to stay as a Council member and not how to keep it.

    Soon after the posters were all put up, we gave speeches in the auditorium to present our qualifications. I made sure that everything in the speech was clear, concise, and meaningful. But again, some people failed to plan. Four or five speeches could be summarized as a “please re-elect me to Council because I’m entitled to it” message. Three days later, voting day came. This would determine the fruits of our efforts during the past weeks. People crowded in front of the library, and filled out ballots. I was pleased to see that numerous people came up to say that they voted for me. At 5:00 PM the same day, the results came out over email; I made it, and I knew it was from being “the producer of myself”! Meanwhile, half of the people in my grade who ran for re-election lost their spots this time.

    The work behind gaining a spot on student council parallels the work needed to rise up to a CEO. It is the ability to plan carefully, to think with realistic expectations, and to persevere ruthlessly that enables that individual to prosper over others. Thinking without acting will only get one so far. Without realizing it throughout the elections, I rarely thought about being a class representative. I embraced the new skills that I learned in the process. From what I saw of my more popular, arrogant classmates, many of them seemed to wait passively for it. They were more focused on the title of being in Council, not actually learning from the election.

    On a final note, even commenting on KWHS articles this summer has contributed to the production of myself. It has helped me to explore my interest in business and entrepreneurship. Through these two months, I have read a wealth of thoughtful comments and written much more to help contemplate about my future. Similarly, the end goal for this comment contest was for me to improve my writing; although being recognized on the results article would be a bonus, I wasn’t focused on the honor. Thank you KWHS for providing such an extensive database of articles for us to discover our inner impresario.

  6. What does it mean to be a good CEO? If all CEOs are financially successful, then are all CEO’s good? To me, the difference between a normal CEO and a good CEO is the same difference between a “leader” and a good leader.

    I entered high school as an arrogant freshman who happened to swim fast. My school’s swim team had dominated the state meet for nearly thirty years in a row and running. I enrolled knowing that championship glory was guaranteed. I didn’t just crave a team trophy, I wanted to add the words “swim team captain” to my resume. If I couldn’t become a captain in two years, I was probably wasting my time.

    On the first day of the swimming season, I walked into the film room and saw the following message sprawled over a chalkboard: “IF YOU CARE ABOUT WHO GETS THE CREDIT, THEN YOU ARE UNFIT TO BE A LEADER.” The coach sat us down and delivered a lecture about “buying in” to the swim team. He didn’t care how slow or unfit anyone was. You were a part of the team, which like a company, can only successfully operate when many individuals wholeheartedly invest all their energy, effort, and willpower to improving the team. When you stop “buying in,” the entire team suffers.

    Those words meant nothing to me on that day. I was faster than eighty percent of the athletes in the room, so why should I have to “buy in?” That season, I half-heartedly glided my way through school practices and always left early to avoid having to clean the pool deck. I even skipped practice twice a week to swim with my private swim club team. I still wound up on the Varsity team at swim meets, where our team dominated by hundreds of points. Although I contributed many points through my fast swims, I was an arrogant teammate at meets, rarely interacting with or cheering on my fellow teammates. When I wasn’t in the pool, I sulked on the sidelines. I only cared about one thing: getting faster times to become a captain later.

    At the end of the season, I represented the school at the state championships. Despite the heightened level of competition, I continued to play that cocky swimmer who pretended to be ice cold. That arrogance finally got to my nerves. I ended up gaining time in all my events and disappointed everyone. Our team lost the championship for the first time in nearly thirty years by four points. I was the difference.

    The next year, we finished third place for the first time in program history. Swim team captain seemed impossible at this point. I didn’t care anymore. The feeling of letting down generations of past swimmers stings far worse than the longing for a trivial leadership position on paper. That feeling haunted me every single day—I knew I was part of the reason we lost our streak.

    My junior year arrived. The freshman who dreamed of captainship glory was finally an upperclassman, finally eligible to attain that position. He had trained his hardest, built relationships with his teammates, and “bought in” to the swim team. I was never even nominated for a captain position, let alone elected.

    But I didn’t quit the team like I had naively vowed two years ago. I couldn’t even if I should’ve. I had already “bought in.” Where my freshman self might have harbored jealously and resentment, my junior self only found genuine reverence and unconditional support for my team captains. In other words, I truly stopped caring who got the credit. I respected my teammates’ decision and pledged to help restore our program’s championship status. I wanted my team to win far more than I wanted anything for myself.

    We were projected to finish fourth at the state championship this year. Instead, the team rallied together and pulled off one upset after another. However, by the final events, we still trailed the leading team by four points. It looked like another second-place season. I stepped up to the block with nothing but sheer willpower vibrating throughout my body and swam a miraculous race, jumping nearly ten places up my projected finish and putting us just barely ahead. I pulled off a hero performance when I forgot about myself and only remembered the team.

    The next week, the school newspaper published a recap of the meet. The article praised our coaches’ leadership. I was barely mentioned, yet I didn’t care. The satisfaction of winning after years of struggle far outweighed the school knowing about my swim.

    When I began “buying in” to the swim team, I didn’t just stop there. I “bought in” to myself. Although I never became swim captain, I adhered to Michael Useem’s advice. I reached out and attempted every possible opportunity my school had to offer. I threw myself into my studies and tried my hardest to mentor younger students. The irony of my situation was that the second I stopped caring about who was the “leader,” or “president,” or “captain” of a project, the more I found myself in that position. My greatest investment every was own conscience.

    When I graduate, only a small imprint of my name will stay behind, engraved in a forgotten corner of my school’s study hall. Future swimmers will see “2020” etched onto the swimming championship banner and wonder why “2018” and “2019” are missing. My existence will relegate itself to the occasional story narrated in the film room. Leader or not, people tend to forget about you when you graduate or leave. Your legacy is not defined by your position, but your actions.

    Michael Useem says, “You are the producer of yourself.” Writing your own story is a monumental task that will guarantee failure. If you give up producing yourself, you can avoid the stinging taste that defeat will leave in your mouth. But you will also give up the self-fulfillment and satisfaction that arrives in triumph over adversity. Becoming a great CEO, magnate, or leader has nothing to do with your revenue or monetary value and everything to do with “buying in” to yourself and becoming a good person, one that forgets about the position, values their peers, and prides themselves in their work. If you adhere to these principles every single day, then you will live a good life and become that leader.

  7. In the ever-changing landscape of business, the rise of young and visionary leaders has captured the imagination of aspiring entrepreneurs and future business executives. Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, exemplifies this new breed of young CEOs who have climbed the corporate ladder to achieve extraordinary success. Spiegel’s journey from launching Snapchat to becoming a billionaire CEO is a testament to the idea that leadership positions are not always the result of meticulously laid-out plans. As Wharton management professor Michael Useem puts it, “Don’t aim to be a chief executive as such; virtually every CEO I have spoken to has said they never planned to become a CEO but through a series of events they did became a CEO.”

    Evan Spiegel’s company demonstrates that leadership is often shaped by unforeseen circumstances and opportunities. Like navigating a maze, young individuals at the start of their careers may not have a clear direction, and that’s perfectly fine. Just as successful CEOs didn’t plan every step of their journey, aspiring leaders should focus on immersing themselves in diverse roles and responsibilities. Each experience becomes a stepping stone that contributes to their growth as a leader, eventually leading them closer to their goals.

    In line with the advice from Professor Useem, the emphasis should not solely be on reaching a specific position but on cultivating a versatile skill set. Instead of fixating on becoming a CEO, young individuals should prioritize taking on new challenges, venturing into unexplored territories, and continuously improving themselves. Just as Spiegel acknowledged his shortcomings as a communicator and worked to improve, young leaders must embrace the notion that learning is a lifelong process. By adopting a growth mindset and seeking continuous improvement, they can hone their abilities and prepare for future leadership roles that may present themselves unexpectedly.

    Useem’s quote, a reflection of the unwritten journeys of countless CEOs, stands as a guiding light for aspiring leaders. This concept serves as a compelling reminder that leadership often emerges from unexpected turns and unscripted challenges. Spiegel’s ascent to success is a testament to the transformative power of acknowledging one’s limitations and actively seeking self-improvement. Mencius’ words mirror this sentiment, encapsulating the idea that true growth arises from embracing mistakes and persevering through trials.

    These ideas harmoniously resonate with the wisdom of Mencius, who once stated, “So it is that whenever Heaven invests a person with great responsibilities, it first tries his resolve, exhausts his muscles and bones, starves his body, leaves him destitute, and confound his every endeavor. In this way his patience and endurance are developed, and his weaknesses are overcome. We change and grow only when we make mistakes. We realize what to do only when we work through worry and confusion. And we gain people’s trust and understanding only when our inner thoughts are revealed clearly in our faces and words.” This ancient philosophy encapsulates the notion that true leadership emerges from trials, challenges, and personal growth, rather than a linear path of calculated decisions.

    Mencius’ words reflect the truth, leadership isn’t simply bestowed upon someone; it’s forged through adversity, discomfort, and perseverance. Just as Spiegel’s journey saw him confronting challenges he hadn’t planned for, Mencius’ observation underscores that even those destined for great responsibility face tribulations that test their mettle. The convergence of Spiegel’s story and Mencius’ insight highlights that leadership isn’t the product of a predefined blueprint, but rather a continuous process of adapting and learning.

    The parallel between Spiegel’s experiences and Mencius’ wisdom becomes even more evident: “We change and grow only when we make mistakes.” This resonates deeply with Spiegel’s willingness to acknowledge his shortcomings and evolve as a leader. In Spiegel’s case, his realization of being a less effective communicator led him to actively address this weakness, emphasizing the importance of recognizing imperfections as catalysts for improvement.

    Furthermore, Mencius’ assertion that growth stems from working through “worry and confusion” harmonizes with Spiegel’s journey of navigating uncertainties and uncharted territories. Young leaders, much like Spiegel, should be willing to embrace ambiguity and discomfort, viewing these moments as opportunities for personal and professional evolution. It is through these periods of confusion that the foundations of resilience and adaptability are built, crucial attributes for any aspiring leader.

    The culminating message of Mencius’ quote, “And we gain people’s trust and understanding only when our inner thoughts are revealed clearly in our faces and words,” echoes the importance of authenticity and transparency. This principle is mirrored in Spiegel’s pursuit of improvement, as he openly addressed his communication shortcomings and worked towards growth. A leader’s credibility and influence stem not from a facade of perfection, but from a genuine display of self-awareness and the willingness to learn and grow.

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