Transition to C-Level Leadership – What does it really take to be successful?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been approached with this very question, yet around very different scenarios.

In one scenario, an executive coaching colleague  is working with a client who has recently transitioned from a senior finance role to the CEO post, but in the eyes of some is still acting like the Senior Finance Director rather than the Chief Executive of the company.   The initial discussion with my colleague focused on the leadership behaviors and expectations that are expected for a CEO versus a Senior Director.  As you might expect, behaviors such as Strategic, Influence, and Management Focus (that have been proven by Management Research Group to be key executive success factors) became the focal point of conversation.

Another scenario had to do with a Senior Leader being approached by her boss, around discussion of her next likely ‘successor role’ – that of a C-Level.  Again, the discussion went down a similar path as described above . . . that of the additional acumen and leadership experience she would need to acquire to be successful in a C-Level role.

This discussion repeated itself in a recent dialogue with yet another client who has recently left a large organization in a senior leadership capacity, to assume a President role in a smaller organization.

In reflecting on what seems to be a very common theme, yet very different scenarios, I am questioning if the essence of success of a CEO has to do more with the alignment of cultural/role expectations to one’s personal motivators, and less with one’s leadership strengths and technical acumen.

In reality, does the level of acumen or demonstrated leadership behaviors really make a difference, if an individual’s motivators are not aligned with the expectations of the organization?  As an example, if an executive is expected to dedicate one’s life to the role, and the individual is not motivated to do this, is this in fact a career derailer for the executive?

Perhaps the real question to ask executives, heads of talent management, and executive coaches is what focus and attention is being put on the alignment of personal motivators TO cultural and role expectations?  Or how and when does the executive successor share his/her personal motivators?

Or, at the end of the day, are we simply afraid to ask the question for fear of the answer?

Written by Janice Krupic, President & CEO of Paragon Leadership International


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