How do CEOs prove themselves

How to become a CEO

A job, an abbreviation, a very special sound: CEO. Anyone who is allowed to write these three letters or their long form "Chief Executive Officer" on their business card no longer needs guidance in terms of career guidance, because they know where they are: at the top.

The position of CEO is singular and singular, and therefore also contested. He, in the German-speaking countries hardly ever she, stands for the entire company, is its face to the outside world. And: there can only be one. Until recently, at least, that was almost irrefutable. Today, of the 20 leading listed companies in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, i.e. a total of 60 top companies, SAP and Deutsche Bank have installed a dual leadership.

Investigated career trajectories of 20 Austro CEOs

Two headhunters with a lot of experience in filling management positions, Andreas Landgrebe and Andreas Hruschka, Managing Partner Austria & CEE at Boyden Global Executive Search, examined the career paths of the CEOs of 20 top Austrian companies for FORMAT in order to determine these success factors identify. For an international comparison, Boyden experts in Germany and Switzerland also analyzed the professional careers of the CEOs of the 20 most important companies in their countries. FORMAT presents the key findings and comments from the career experts:

The CEO world is male. But women will get their chances.

A look at the list of the 20 top CEOs makes it immediately clear: this is a pure gentlemen's club. This is not an Austrian specific. In Germany and Switzerland, too, not a single woman is at the head of a top company. "The air is getting thinner and thinner for women upstairs. Women do come to the boardroom, but - until now - have not yet been CEO," explains Andreas Landgrebe. In the USA, things are already different. In the technology sector in particular, there are already a number of Women in the classic CEO role: Virginia Rometty at IBM, Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Meg Whitman at HP.In this country, female managers like Tatjana Oppitz (IBM) or Monika Kircher (Infineon) made it to the top of Austrian subsidiaries of international corporations , but not yet to those of listed companies.

Significant partner is also checked

From the expert's point of view, the family factor is extremely important when filling board positions: "Stable family relationships are important for a career. The typical CEO has a family with children To be included in the form of a joint dinner. "

Graduation is almost indispensable as the first rung on the ladder to CEO.

In the ranks of CEOs in Austria there is currently one non-academic, in Germany two, in Switzerland three - interestingly enough, the three Swiss are all in the financial sector. "A degree will remain an elementary step on the career ladder nationally and internationally," says Andreas Hruschka. In Austria, three fields of study clearly dominate the boardrooms: economics, technology and law (see graphic on p. 81). "General studies for CEOs seems To be business administration. Due to the increasing specialization and occupation of market niches, the importance of engineering studies is also increasing noticeably at the top level, ”notes the consultant.

Domestic company managers are much more likely to have a doctorate than their colleagues in neighboring countries. But a top-class executive education has long since become more important than the doctorate for advancement. "Having a renowned post-graduate education is a strong argument in favor of a career move and is becoming increasingly important," explains Landgrebe.

Starting age: When you are in your mid-40s, you can jump into the CEO chair.

"Almost half of the CEOs of the ATX companies were appointed to this position when they were under 50, the youngest among the current holders of office were even in their early 40s at that time," Landgrebe calculates and concludes: "You have to jump on the top level don't wait until you're 55. CEOs can easily imagine CEOs in their mid-40s. ”The fact that Austrian managers tend to be brisk when it comes to careers is also demonstrated by the example of an Austrian living in Switzerland: Severin Schwan from Tyrol, a graduate of economics and law in Innsbruck, was just 40 Years when he became CEO of the pharmaceutical company Roche five years ago.

Prove continuity, create a solid track record in the company.

For such a jump, however, you have to be able to show something. Domestic CEOs have been in their position for an average of 5.7 years and have been with the company for 16.4 years - that is, they have worked in the company for an average of ten years to get their appointment. "If you want to become a CEO, you should prove yourself over a long period of time within a company," says Hruschka. "CEOs are generally not lateral entrants. The supervisory board has many years of experience in the boardroom of a well-known company almost without exception as a basic requirement for the shortlist. "According to the experience of the Boyden experts, the leap to group CEO is best as CEO of a subsidiary or as a board member with responsibility for results in a core area.

Loyalty to the company counts, as does diverse experience - job hoping tends not to.

Four of the 20 Austrian CEOs have spent their entire careers in the company they are now in charge of. At the same time, eleven of the 20 CEOs were already working in at least one other industry before they were appointed. That is more than in Germany, where only a third have experience in another industry

"You don't necessarily have to start your career where you want to be CEO. Bringing different experiences and perspectives with you is appreciated by the supervisory board," says Landgrebe. Outstanding job hoppers would usually not be CEO; Number of career stations.

Experience abroad is becoming more important because Austria has to become more international.

When it comes to international experience, the current domestic generation of CEOs is still lagging behind their colleagues in Germany and Switzerland: In Germany, eleven, in Germany 15, and in Switzerland even 19 out of 20 operational international experience have in their track record. "Austria still seems to be relatively self-centered," says Landgrebe. This can also be seen in the fact that until the recent appointment of the German Ulrich Schumacher at Zumtobel, without exception, all CEOs of the ATX companies were Austrian citizens Top companies run by foreigners.

For Landgrebe, this lack of internationality in the appointments of CEOs is astonishing, as many domestic companies operate strongly internationally and are even global market leaders in certain areas. In any case, Austria's next CEOs will hardly ever reach this position without international experience and the companies will probably also appoint one or the other foreign top manager.

Developing professional core competencies: market experience & responsibility for results.

There are some career myths about which previous positions are the best stepping stones to a CEO. Boyden expert Hruschka puts one of them into perspective: "The path from CFO, i.e. CFO, to CEO occurs, but it is not the main path." Financial engineering is important because a CEO has to understand the numbers himself, "says Landgrebe and adds: "Experience on the market side is even more important. Those who have the best cards are those who can refer to controlling experience and responsibility for results."

Another myth: management consulting is a good first step in a career for ambitious people. However, if you want to become CEO, you should switch later, because going directly from consultant to CEO is a rather rare career pattern.

Headhunters corner careers

Collection for format:
Andreas Landgrebe (left) and Andreas Hruschka (right), Managing Partner Austria & CEE at the international headhunter Boyden Global Executive Search, examined the career paths of CEOs at the 20 leading Austrian companies for FORMAT. This will give you valuable tips for career strategies. To compare countries, Boyden colleagues in Germany and Switzerland also checked the CEOs of the top 20 companies in their countries.

Economics, technology and law studies are the most common

The study of business administration is the most common academic training for local top managers. But technology graduates are also occupying more and more CEO positions. Almost indispensable for the leap to the top are special executive training courses for all aspirants to higher management degrees.

Peter Layr, EVN: Long-running technicians
As a prime example of loyalty to the company and the industry, Peter Layr spent his entire career at the energy supplier EVN until he was promoted to CEO.

Georg Pölzl, Post: Diverse industry experience
The Post boss started his career in consulting, then worked as CEO in industry and the telecommunications sector. In Germany he was at the head of T-Mobile.

Peter Hagen, VIG: Group expert with international experience
A number of career stations within the Vienna Insurance Group (VIG), including at the Czech subsidiary, mark Hagen's career as CEO.