During the second lecture of the M. Keith Weikel MBA Leadership Speaker Series, we had a delightful talk with Peter Vanham and Dr. Alex Stajkovic about how to become a CEO.
Peter Vanham is a business writer and a media strategist, yet to become CEO; however, he found the answers through talking to elite leaders and shared his thoughts in his book Before I was CEO.
Dr. Alex Stajkovic is an associate professor at Wisconsin School of Business, is the M. Keith Weikel Distinguished Chair in Leadership, and was recently named the most influential Organizational Behavior Textbook Author.
Opening his speech, Vanham genuinely emphasized the importance of networking, which all of us in the MBA Program could relate to. He took himself as an example how an alumnus from his university had helped him to find his dream career in the United States. Not surprisingly, networking ability is one of the common characteristics that is widely shared by many of the CEOs he talked to.
Another thing Vanham noticed is that most of multinational companies’ CEOs had experience overseas in the early years of their careers. Working cross-cultural and facing different economic and political environments helped them to shape crisis management skills and build outstanding stamina. In these environments, the to-be-CEOs exposed themselves to unimaginably difficult missions like managing business during warfare and penetrating into new markets, to mundane operational activities like tax reporting and currency exchange. These experiences no doubt pushed them forward and placed them ahead of the curve.
The last things, which were the topics that Vanham stressed throughout his speech, are to learn to enjoy life and to appreciate family and friends. The decision to become a CEO should be a decision made by the whole family. And after time spent as CEOs, all of the people Peter interviewed came back to their non-working lives with their families and dedicated themselves to the people around them. All agreed that working to be CEO was not the ultimate goal of their life; in fact, a strong family relationship was their common goal. Thus, “surprisingly, how to become a CEO is not wanting to become one,” Peter concluded.
Vanham and Dr. Stajkovic spent a brief amount of time sharing their thoughts about leaders in a warm and amusing atmosphere. All in all, to become a leader in business, they both highlighted the importance of comprehensive experience and knowledge, and enjoying life beyond work.