So you want to be a CEO. What’s the fastest way of getting there? One answer is to start small first, in order to go big later. Another is to simply take a risk and make a huge leap to a higher corporate rung.

It turns out that many CEO “sprinters” — ambitious executives who reach the top spot relatively quickly — often take a smaller role first. That’s according to a Harvard Business Review write-up by researchers behind the CEO Genome Project, a 10-year study that looked at how executives reach the top and who they are.

By taking a smaller role, that can mean launching a new product or a division inside their company, or moving to a smaller business in order to take on more responsibilities. Some start their own business first.

Each option helps a budding executive build something from scratch, which the researchers said helps “make an outsize impact” and gain attention from peers and potential mentors.

In terms of making a big leap, the researchers noted that many executives took on new job opportunities even when the job was well beyond what they had done before and they weren’t fully prepared for what they’d face. But by doing so, these aspiring CEOs can learn new skills quickly, gain insight and prove their ability to thrive.

For the full HBR writeup, click here.