Are You Ready For A C-Suite Position?

If you feel it is time to take the next step in your career and you have your eye on the C-suite, congratulations! Obtaining a role as a senior executive is the ultimate goal for many, and with years of hard work, dedication and personal sacrifice, you have gotten to the point where there are fewer steps up the ladder than down!


I have had the opportunity to speak with highly qualified professionals who are ready for the C-suite, and also, unfortunately, dozens who are eager to get there, but are not quite prepared. While every professional background and leadership style is different, I have found three main attributes that successful C-suite executives possess.


1. Flourishing C-suite executives build collaborative, interdepartmental teams that achieve goals, without vying for credit and praise.


If you are someone who engages and inspires cross-functional teams to meet objectives, while providing opportunities for individualized growth, a place in the C-suite may very well be for you. This demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility — defining projects and outcomes, and delivering results — without the need for praise and recognition. A true leader welcomes challenges and gives credit to the teams that help "make it happen." Why? Their focus isn’t on themselves but rather on the company at large (and the people who are a part of it). This is the mark of a true leader that is prepared to set direction, without the skew of personal gain.


2. The C-level recognizes the big picture when everyone else gets hung up on small details.


Please do not misunderstand — details are incredibly important and should not be overlooked. And, while every aspect of a project, both big and small, need to be done with precision, sometimes employees can become so consumed by minor tasks they fail to see anything beyond what they are doing. Part of leading an organization is the ability to recognize where it is currently, while simultaneously knowing where it can go, what it can become and how it is going to get there. If you can bring the "small" facets together and align them to meet larger goals, you are able to develop an organization’s vision and mission, which is exactly what the C-suite needs.


3. Senior executives maintain continuity during a crisis.


No day goes as planned. When "disaster" strikes (minor or extreme), your experience provides you with the ability to remain calm and forge ahead. You anticipate needs, rearrange priorities and manage change, communicating plans with precision and clarity. The ability to do this only comes with years of experience, and is an attribute each leader must have. If you can develop strategic plans to maintain continuity and calm during the unexpected, you have the industry knowledge and know-how necessary to lead.


Time and time again, I have spoken with clients who are C-suite ready, but find it challenging to locate open positions. There are two reasons this happens: The higher up you go, the fewer available positions there are, and/or a change in leadership may be sensitive, so roles are not publicly advertised. Here are some tips to help you overcome those hurdles:


If possible, share your ambitions with your current employer, letting them know you are interested and open to a change.


I recognize that this may not be possible in every work environment, but if you are fortunate enough to have a long history with an employer, you can approach this topic with humility. Express your desire to learn more, candidly discussing your personal goals and interest to move to a C-level role. This is especially important if you are aware that a current executive may be leaving or if a new executive role is opening.

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