5 things I wish I knew before I became a CEO

The opinions expressed by Antrepreneur contributors are their own.

When people think of CEOs and other top executives, they often picture sophisticated professionals who know everything there is to know about business and success. I urge people to remember that CEOs are just people with many of the same fears and concerns as other working professionals.

Acceptance of an executive position does not result in automatic conversion; it’s not like you become superhuman the moment you get a promotion. Now, after 30 years of experience, I feel more confident than ever, but I’m still vulnerable to self-doubt; I also gained my confidence the hard way through trial and error. Obviously, if I could go back and do it all over again, there are things I wish someone had told me – honestly, someone might have, but I was younger and eager and ready to -I make my own way.

If you’re getting ready to start your journey as a CEO or executive, take a few deep breaths and settle on the exciting journey ahead. Sure, the road is hard, but nothing in life worth living comes without challenges. Know that you are capable.

When I first started, there were a few things I wish I had known. Now, armed with years of experience, I can share with you those lessons I wish I had. I hope my tips help you avoid some of the challenges I’ve had in this intense and incredible CEO position.

Related: 4 Critical Business Lessons I Learned as a CEO

1. Hire subject matter experts

Your team is your most valuable asset. My team started small with just a handful of staff covering multiple departments, including myself. But over the years, we’ve hired some of the industry’s best experts in their fields of expertise. From fees to tours and everything in between, I look to hire the best in the business to provide the highest quality service.

There is no shame in admitting you don’t know what you don’t know; that doesn’t make you any less of a leader. Either way, recognizing where your expertise may be lacking is a significant leadership skill because it ensures you always put the company and team before your ego.

A true leader is only as good as his team. If you want to be a recognized and praised CEO, always find team members who strengthen the company’s position.

Related: Build Your Business on Your Strengths, Hire Your Team to Cover Your Weaknesses

2. Never stop learning

Continuous learning is one of the most important things a CEO can do for himself, his team, and ultimately his company. Our team organizes continuous learning sessions throughout the year for our staff and management team. For me, I block time during the week to read about new industry developments and seek advice from trusted advisors.

Part of what sets successful CEOs apart from other leaders is their motivation and drive to constantly improve themselves and the company. A CEO is always looking for the next big thing to make waves in the industry or company. They want to keep their eyes and minds open to innovative ideas and talent. Successful CEOs are always looking for ways to increase and improve their knowledge.

3. Criticism comes with the territory

As a CEO, you have to realize that criticism comes with the territory. People will always feel they could have made a better decision, but hindsight is 20/20. You have to believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability to make the best decisions for the company.

Most problems have multiple solutions and each will have pros and cons. A successful CEO can weigh the pros and cons and take decisive action. Although it seems like a lot of pressure – and it is – you can make such challenging decisions because you’re never alone. Each CEO has the support of other executives, managers and team members.

Related: How to Effectively Receive Constructive Feedback

4. Keep the mindset of the employee

A key to a successful career is to never forget the mindset of the employee. All CEOs, myself included, need to remember where they came from and recognize the importance of each position and each team member. True success lies in a CEO’s ability to remain humble and appreciative of his position. As a CEO, you are just one member of the entire company population. Remember and rely on those around you and you will be fine.

5. Every successful CEO makes mistakes

Finally, you know that as a first-time CEO, you’re going to make mistakes, but you’re not alone. Every successful CEO must learn in their first executive role. You will excel with enough practice and dedication to the post; just maintain a willingness to listen and learn.

While the CEO position comes with challenges and an adjustment period, it is still fulfilling and energizing. When I look back on my career and how everything has led up to this moment, I can truly say that I am grateful and still look forward to what tomorrow will bring. If you remember these lessons, you’ll look forward to your CEO journey, too.

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