A few years ago while I still was the managing director of a subsidiary of a large multinational corporation, the CEO from our head office in Germany came for a two-day visit. During his stay, we had arranged for a lunch with our local leadership team in Thailand. Being a team of highly motivated leaders that are always eager to learn, I wasn’t surprised when my colleagues asked the CEO for some career advice.
One of them wanted to know what he thinks is the main reason that he succeeded already at a rather young age (the CEO was in his mid-forties at that time) in becoming the CEO and the boss of more than 30,000 employees worldwide.
The CEO replied that this is a question that is not so easy to answer. After giving it some thought, he said that he thinks a big factor in becoming CEO was that he didn’t do any job within our global organization longer than five years. He briefly described to our leadership team his career path which led him from a position in a R&D – laboratory to a sales & marketing position, from a job in our German head office to an Asian subsidiary, and from heading a chemicals business unit to being in charge of the pharmaceuticals business.
And then, he stated what impressed me most. He mentioned that luck was a very important factor in becoming CEO. We were all surprised when he said that, because it is rather unusual that a CEO admits that you need also luck for reaching such a position. And it shows that modesty and humility are also valuable characteristics of a CEO.