By Terry Corbell
The Biz Coach
Career Strategies: How to Get a C-Level Job
If you’re climbing the corporate ladder and have designs on the C-suite – CEO, COO, or CFO – a Stanford University professor has some excellent advice. In essence, he advises getting a strong, generalist-background in business.
“The higher you get in an organization, the more likely you are to encounter problems from a variety of different areas,” says a Stanford Graduate School of Business labor economist, Dr. Edward P. Lazear.
He believes it’s important to be a generalist, especially for professionals wanting to become a CEO because of the broad issues the job entails. Dr. Lazear contends “those people have to be generalists” according to Stanford GSB News in its Sept. 2010 newsletter.
The economist has won numerous honors, and written 11 books and more than 100 articles. He was an economic advisor to President George W. Bush, and was chair of the Council of Economic Advisors from 2006 to 2009. He’s also counseled the governments of Czechoslovakia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.
“A good CEO is someone who’s very good, possibly not excellent, but very good, at almost everything,” he asserts.
“People who are most likely to end up in leadership positions are ones who have had many different roles throughout their career,” explains Dr. Lazear. He points out that successful companies make it a practice to give various jobs to talented employees to groom them for leadership. In other words, the broader the skills –the more desirable a person is for the CEO’s role.
A salient skill: The CEOs ability to hire the right people to fill the senior executive’s gaps in knowledge or experience is very important. CEOs must understand enough about the company’s needs in any given area to evaluate, recruit and hire talent.
“Putting together a team is a generalist’s skill. ‘Just hiring someone’ is not so easy,” says the economist.
He believes specific highly visible jobs, such as banking, high-level finance or marketing, are great catalysts leading to the C-suite.
Dr. Lazear says jobs in “publicly observed decision-making situations” puts ambitious people in the right environment at the right time so that others can watch them in action. He believes it’s inevitable that others will become followers as the leader is born.
But he has a warning for an ambitious person – don’t just go through the motions – don’t assume that a variety of jobs or working in a marketing job is enough. He suggests something akin to physical training for the Olympics – increase your strong points in multiple areas so “you can enhance your probability of going into leadership.”
From the Coach’s Corner, here is additional reading:
- 7 Tips for a Young Professional to Become a CEO
- Leadership Strategies to Profit from Employee Respect
- 10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.