For a lot of top talent and high potential professionals, getting to C-level positions represents taking their careers to the peak of the corporate game. This achievement is extremely rewarding because it encompasses years of commitment, hard and smart work in the making. So, if you have already blazed the trail in that direction, you might be thinking to yourself: is it my time to step up?
Top-level executives are the people in charge of the entire company. Sure, they have the highest salaries, but also share in the biggest responsibility, ensuring the growth and sustainability of the company, which includes taking care of their workforce. It’s like Simon Sinek, author of The Infinite Game, says:
“It’s not about status. The real role of the leader is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in our charge.”
So, for anyone looking to make it to one of those coveted senior management positions, it’s not just about having years of experience under their belt or working at a company for a decade in the hopes that they can eventually toss that description “Chief” in their job title. And this might surprise some, but it is also not about being the most skilled or knowledgeable employee in their area.
While being an expert in your industry and department is a major part of advancing your career, earning your spot at the top has to do with honing and taking your soft skills to their utmost potential. Particularly those buzzing leadership skills.
It’s a balance, really, but studies have shown that what C-level executives have in common is the development and mastery of those power skills, such as crisis and change management, strategic analysis, decision-making, communication, adaptability and many more.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have leadership development within your day-to-day work or that you need an MBA; although there’s great merit in earning that degree. What prominent leaders do to raise their game is enter a conscious and committed cycle of learning and putting that knowledge into practice.
If you’ve made up your mind and are fully prepared to take your mid-level position to a C-level corporate job, there are two ways you can go about it:
If you’ve in fact been in the company for a while, worked on your own skillset, and made an impact on your department or a larger scale solution, well you might just have the right combo to make it to that level. However, you should keep in mind that these senior management positions are a lot more like a succession process compared to other job promotions.
What this means is that you might be ready, but the job is still taken. Of course, larger companies or those on a path towards expansion and growth might open new C-level positions. Sometimes the Chief Operating Officer’s responsibilities split, and there’s room for a new Chief Human Resources Officer.
If you are playing the long game, maybe this is not a concern for you, but still, remember to put your name out there so that you are considered when the opportunity arises.
Maybe you’ve tried moving up through promotion but have seen no progress. Or maybe you were not looking to make a change, but with a track record that speaks for itself, you might have caught the eye of other players. Whatever the case is, recruitment can be a fast-lane approach to get a job in the higher ranks.
You can jump in various job boards on your own, but many companies don’t just post these exclusive positions on LinkedIn. There is definitely an element of networking to get a senior management position. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be yours.
One of the perks of working one-on-one with a recruiter is that you can leverage their expertise, knowledge of the industry, and connections to land the right job. Plus, since this can be a sensitive subject, by working with a recruiter you protect your search since they will keep your information confidential until they find a match that’s worthy.
Now that you are on your way to the C-suite, remember that your mindset will also need to adjust as your title and responsibilities change. This is a great opportunity to find yourself an experienced mentor, or more, to guide you through the new ups and downs of your leadership role.
Ask them for advice, listen to their stories, and bounce off ideas with them. Welcome every piece of information that will strengthen your skills and knowledge.
In episode 3 of The Howl, our own CEO, Ryan Good, has some particularly good advice for rising leaders. Here are a couple of highlights:
As a C-level executive you need to know what’s at stake to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone involved. This is where strategic thinking and decision-making skills play a major role.
This doesn’t just apply to the mentors you choose, but the team you build. It will soon be your turn to promote others and bring them into the inner circle. Remember it’s not all about their skills mastery, having high-integrity people in leadership will pour down and transcend to the rest of the company.
You can play Ryan’s full episode to learn more about what it means to be the CEO of a growing company.
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