The path to the C-Suite is not for everyone. That is where people with titles like CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, etc. work and serve as the leadership team in an organization. For those who make it, it can represent the quintessential career path of success. To get there, it may require one to be well educated, business savvy, a sound decision maker, a leader, intelligent and much more. From the outside, it may appear the requirements above are replaced by corporate politics. Even though politics may play a role, the C-Level executive of the 21st Century will have to meet demands that may not havebeen mandatory 20+ years ago. That has forced many on the path to the C-Suite to refocus their efforts.
In the past, many executives relied solely on their formal education. I have heard a CFO say he learned everything he needed to know in college. That may assume knowledge of the past will handle everything in the future. In another case, a CEO once told me that one of his C-Level executives believed everything would return to normal after the 2008 recession. That executive thought it would be a matter of time before the dust settled.
In the case of the executive waiting for the dust to settle, he was fired. The CEO needed someone who would be prepared for a new normal. The CFO who learned it all in college has remained with the company and has hindered growth. He has obstructed progress in areas where technology was needed. And his behavior has helped shape a culture of under performance.
In both cases, the executives held on to old ways of doing business. That mindset can be a major impediment to the enterprise and career growth. And those committed to becoming a C-Level executive should be prepared for constantly developing themselves professionally. Why?
If you observe, technology by itself has changed the functions of many C-Level executives. For example, the CIO, Chief Information Officer, of the past, may have been an excellent IT person. He or she may have had deep knowledge of specific technology. That person could easily be hands-on when necessary. And he or she would have felt competent in their job.
While the proliferation of technology, digital media and e-commerce has transformed the role of all C-Level executives, being too much of a specialist can be a hindrance. The CEO needs a CIO who can see the big picture and strategically assess what technologies will support which business functions. That requires strategic thinking and leadership. In fact, it would be wise for a person committed to being a CIO to take on non-technology leadership roles as they climb the corporate ladder. That way they will have greater insight into the functions of divisions, instead of being limited to the technological aspects of business. It would also help them develop leadership skills, how to hire smart non-tech people and delegate.
Furthermore, with globalization, there is increased competition. Therefore, executives will need to be able to understand competitive analysis, return on investment, cost of losing talent, global finance, technology, etc. Depending on the cost and return of a competitive advantage, executives need to help the CEO develop and make strategic decisions for how and when to go to market and the resources required.
For those who are not developing themselves to serve in this way, the path to the C-Suite may appear insurmountable. Your deep intimate knowledge in accounting, IT or marketing could work against you. That expertise can serve as a trap door that impedes future career growth. At some point, it becomes imperative to focus less on your technical expertise and make a transition to develop yourself as a leader and a big picture strategic thinker.
What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog www.turnaroundip.blogspot.com.