See You At The Top – Qualifiers for an Executive Position

Today I asked a senior executive whether one of his direct reports “had the right stuff” to become an executive. He answered, “While he is great at what he does right now, I don’t see him as one of our future executives.”

“How do you know he won’t make it to the C-Suite?” I asked.

His answer was somewhat perplexing and needed elaboration. He said,

“Do you know the saying, if you walk like a duck and quack like a duck, you are a duck? This person just does not look and behave like an executive. None of my peers would promote him to the C-Suite.”

Was it the way this person dressed?

Did it have to do with his weak communication skills?

Or did it have to do with the fact that although he had excellent tactical skills, he did not have a strategic bone in his body?

I have coached numerous mid-level leaders who had such leadership gaps. Many overcame their challenge and became senior leaders.

How then does one evaluate for executive level abilities?

Putting aside the domain expertise and credibility that one would need to fill C-Level shoes, the best way to assess whether one could make it to the top is to compare one’s current leadership skills with typical success criteria for that particular position. The above leader presented me with a few of the criteria for success used to evaluate him for his current position. The CEO and Board of Directors wanted to know whether he had the

Ability to build trust with senior leaders across functions and geographies

“Fire his belly” to succeed

Capacity to present a vision of the future for the enterprise

Drive for results in the face of big challenges

Capability to bring novel solutions to the table for the business and influence others to buy into the strategy

Global mindset and knew the levers to pull to improve the business 

Skill to build teams and get the job done through others

Ability to communicate with clarity and credibility

Emotional intelligence to make a good “fit” with the culture of the Organization

Capability to influence people to follow him

In the end, he had received the highest rating in all of the above and was chosen for his position.

How would you rate yourself against such criteria?

Question for Current Executives

What leadership success criteria would you add to the above list to assess whether a person has executive capabilities?

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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