Answer by A Quora admin:
At any given time, there are only ~ 500 of these folks. So it's extremely hard to become the CEO of a fortune 500 company. Aswrites, one way is to start your own company and grow it into a Fortune 500. Another way to increase your chances is to be born into a family dynasty. Certainly it takes luck. Yet, there are ways to increase your luck. If I were to design a career that I felt had the best shot, here is what I'd suggest. It will be difficult. It will take discipline and planning.
1. Attend a top-tier University. Major in and learn finance, engineering, or computer science. Become comfortable with analyzing large data sets. Dabble in debate and public speaking. Network and gain contacts. They will help you gain acceptance early on. Also, when the time comes the fancy degree next to your name will give the hiring committee another reason to approve your nomination to CEO.
2. Go blue chip early. Get the stamp of approval from a highly respected firm. The more high-profile and recognizable the firm, the better. The beginning of your career is not the time to take risks. You'll need to do that later. Now is the time to lay the ground work. Learn how your company and industry work. Play it safe and smart.
3. Identify your strengths and gain P&L & management experience in that area. Figure out what you are best at relative to your peers. Work hard and specialize. Focus and make an impact in the area where you excel. Stretch yourself to the max in terms of hard numbers. You need to be able to show concrete accomplishments: revenue gained, people managed, dollars saved, clients won, code written, products designed, mergers completed, etc.
4. Harness those public speaking skills; get to know as many talented people as you can. CEO candidates are often judged by the quality of their relationships and network. When you become the CEO, it's more about who knows you, than who you know. Become comfortable and effective quickly selling yourself, your team, and your industry. Use that elevator pitch. Inspire people.
5. Move up to another company. After you have spent sufficient time at BlueChip #1, you have made a name for yourself. Keep your eyes open for higher-level positions at your competitors, clients, suppliers, etc. Look to another BlueChip or a hot up-and-commer. Make the jump, ideally 2+ levels up.
6. Develop your team. Now is the time to trust the team around you. Delegate wherenever you can. The goal is for fast-track promotion, so you don't want to be too indispensable in any one area. If you are seen as too necessary in any one role, you may get passed over for a higher level general management position.
7. Impact the company's primary value. If you've effectively managed #6, you can free yourself up to spend your time on whatever is mission critical at the company. Know what key stockholders value most, and do that.
8. Solve a big problem. Now is the time to take that big risk. You have the education, the team, and the experience. Now you need to make a splash. Get noticed. Be bold. Failure at this stage is ok. It's the time to brand yourself as a change agent ready to lead big strategic initiatives.
9. Join a board. Become a member of the board at a respectable company. Many Fortune 500 CEO's have served as board members before becoming CEOs. Join this group.
10. Get ahead of the search. CEO openings at Fortune 500 companies are rare, so you need to keep your eyes and ears open. Talk to board members, shareholders, and executive search firms. Research, research, research. And network. Get in a position to make your skills and relevant experience known early, preferably before the opening is known and before the current CEO retires.