What Does it Take to Join the C-Suite?

The goal of most ambitious, successful leaders is to reach the C-level. Yet as you climb the career ladder, there are fewer positions and more competition at each rung you climb. Once you near the top, the C-suite, the challenge is harder than it’s ever been. So, what does it take to join the C-suite?

As executive recruiters with over a hundred years of experience, we can tell you that what got you here, won’t get you there. Gaining admission to the C-suite requires an expanded set of skills. There is a different set of expectations and competencies expected of you. We’ve outlined a few of the top strategies to consider if you’re ready to take that next step in your career.

What is Your Brand?

If you’ve never considered that you, yourself, are a brand, it’s time to start thinking about who you are and what your brand says about you. In an age of social media, it’s easier than ever to see your story line. This includes your previous positions, papers you’ve authored, presentations you’ve given at events, volunteer work, and boards you’ve served on. Have you considered what the narrative says about you?

If not, now is the time to craft your brand story. What you say, how your resume reads, your social footprint, should all align and support your brand story. How did you get to your current position? Where do you want to go? What are your unique differentiators? What value do you bring to the table? You should be able to consistently and succinctly answer these questions.

Are You Diversified?

Being considered for the C-suite requires you to have a broad skill set. As you’ve moved up in your career, have you also taken on new responsibilities or a lateral move that increases your business acumen? For example, if you started in sales, have you taken on marketing responsibilities? If you’re in operations, have you take on planning and strategy responsibilities?

C-level leaders are responsible for more than a single area of concentration. If you haven’t taken on new or expanded roles at your company, you may want to first consider a move that broadens your skill set. Let your boss know of your intentions and ask what you can do to broaden your skill set. You might be surprised with the opportunities that come your way.

Do You Know Your Leadership Style?

How do you manage? How do you make decisions? How do you get things done? These are just a few questions to consider as you think about your leadership style. C-level leaders are expected to make tough decisions and maintain the respect of others. They are also expected to delegate and empower their teams. Do you have the data that supports the impact you are making at the company? From hard numbers to team success to choices made, everything you do should be done with an eye towards the C-suite.

One caveat, you don’t need to pretend you’re great at everything. You’re not. This is another key element in understanding your leadership style, where are your gaps? What are you good at and where are you not as strong? Knowing where you need support is a sign of self awareness and good business sense.

Moving from a VP or Director level to the C-suite typically takes time. Patience, persistence, and determination will keep you on track to achieving your goal. Building your network will support you as well. Understand who you should meet, what you have to offer, and reach out and begin to develop those relationships.

To learn more about what it takes to move forward in your career, or how to work with a retained executive search firm, visit our blog.