Is it your career ambition to reach the C-Suite? Are you on that trajectory but not totally sure how to make the leap? I hear this often with my coaching clients and want to offer my perspective on the one thing that often holds the “#2 layer” of management in place and unable to break into the C-Suite.
Let’s start with an obvious yet important assumption. You must be qualified. If that’s true, I want you to put aside the fact that there are relatively few jobs at the top because that’s also true for the #2 layer of leaders. As a #2, you likely have influence, trusting relationships and are making a positive impact in your position. Those are all prerequisites for making it to the C-Suite.
Second, put aside your resume. There comes a time when leading at scale is leading at scale. Whether you’ve done this at a recognizable and reputable company or one that is lesser known, at some point, the work is the work. You’ve done it.
Holding those two things equal, there is ONE thing that holds most leaders back. Let me see if I can read your mind. Nope, it’s not imposter syndrome. 100% of my CXO clients have imposter syndrome. Through coaching, they learn to reframe their thoughts and move past beyond their limiting beliefs.
What about security? As in, “It took time to get here and I’m basically at the top. I’m making measurable impact, and I love my team. Blah, blah, blah.” If any of that sounds like you, you might be afraid of the change required to take the leap. That’s understandable but it’s not the main reason.
The REAL reason leaders never make it to the C-Suite is because they lack vision. I’m not talking about the company vision – the kind required to innovate, strategize or scale. I’m talking about your personal leadership vision. The vision that you hold for yourself as the leader of a company and its people.
Lots of leaders think they want to be in the C-Suite. It might be for achievement sake, for the money, power, prestige, to make a difference, or another reason. Most of those same people however, lack vision on what they truly want out of their life and career. They never make an intentional plan for how to get there. Without vision, you can’t set the roadmap to succeed.
The truth is, C-Suite leaders are incredibly powerful, especially in a capitalistic society. Running a company as the CEO or in your CXO vertical is not something you simply try out. Leading at that level requires a deep awareness of the responsibility that you have for thousands of peoples’ emotional and fiscal well-being. That’s profound.
If you’re with me in that belief, and you still want to make it at the top, you have to know WHY you want it. I invite you to complete this reflective journaling exercise to see what comes up:
- I am motivated to make it to the C-Suite because ________________.
- Once I’m there, I will feel [emotion word] and believe ____________________ about myself.
- In my CXO role, I aim to accomplish ___________________________.
- The reason I want to do [#3] is because I ultimately believe ___________________.
Sit back and reread your journal prompts. What comes up for you as you read it? Do you love what you wrote? If so, what is the next step in clarifying your personal leadership vision and turning it into an actionable mission? If not, what would make you love it more?
Finding your true purpose and motivation is key to unlocking the vision required to make it to the C-Suite. Gain clarity and the path will appear.