The 7 Capabilities You Need on Your Path to the Top

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Credit: istockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

Credit: istockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

Why was Chuck Robbins both a surprising successor and the obvious choice when he was named CEO of Cisco? How did a leadership opportunity in London put Edith Cooper on track to become senior director at Goldman Sachs? What motivated Yoky Matsuoka to return to Nest as CTO after a tenure away? Each made strategic career decisions that put them on the path to the top team. These executives, and many others like them whom I have interviewed, drew on specific assets that helped them to stand out as candidates during an active executive search.

Over the course of my career, I’ve coached hundreds of executives at Cisco and elsewhere who aspired to serve on the top team. And many found their path and succeeded. One chief strategy officer (CSO) I know accepted the top strategy job after bringing his company back from the brink following the 2008 recession. Another, a banking chief financial officer (CFO), relinquished a coveted senior role at a Fortune 100 firm to accept the top finance job at a much smaller organization. Still another, now a young chief human resource officer (CHRO), managed to reinvent himself several times over until he was exactly what the CEO was looking for when she needed to unveil a new talent strategy. Each of these executives expertly managed their careers while also remaining vigilant and scanning for emerging opportunities.

So what are the most relevant capabilities that CEOs, boards, and executive recruiters look for as they identify candidates for the top team?

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