What Successful Executives Have In Common


Remember in college when that one exceptional student claimed he barely studied for the final only to lead the class with an exceptionally high score? We all wondered how he did it. Turns out he continuously studied then deliberately made his stellar performance look easy. Predictably, he’s the kid that rose to the top of the executive ladder. 

After working with executive candidates for four decades, their patterns of behavior catapulting them to the C-suite become apparent. Though there be many talented professionals with superior skill levels and many with aspirations, only a few reach the top.

Here’s what they have in common:

Skills marketability

Though they live in the same volatile world, when it comes to layoffs and downsizing, industry leaders seem to bounce back into the next opportunity with little effort. Much like the calculating college student who claims he never studies, leaders are also calculating, choosing where they work and what they do based on leveraging future opportunities.

They begrudgingly relocate, take pay cuts and work 12-hour days knowing how valuable the experience these next few years will be. Each move is made with foresight; decisions made in-the-moment don’t exist.

They never pre-screen opportunity

While climbing the ladder, industry leaders never reject an opportunity to present their offerings. When pursued, they don’t think twice about responding with a visit. There’s no consideration of which position for which they are being considered, no second-guessing and no believing any negativity. Leaders scoff at Glassdoor reviews and never search Salary.com. When invited, there are no turn-downs. Companies have far more to do than invite candidates in for no reason, and executive leaders know if awarded an invitation, employers saw good reason to select them for a visit.

They view decision-makers as colleagues

We caution our candidates to avoid creating a big-chair little-chair mentality, where employers hold all the cards and candidates are but timid souls hoping a decision goes their way. Through information and preparation, a candidate can present a strong performance without the ”hire me, I need a job” mentality. With industry leaders, this is never the case, anyway.


They’re not shy in communications

Because they don’t elevate employers by allowing them to control their destinies, leaders are never reticent about picking up the phone. Fear of rejection continues to be the biggest reason that candidates have weak presentations.

Though he continues to remain unemployed, one candidate refuses to call companies for fear that an admin might be terminated for allowing his call to go through. Leaders know when and how often to call without looking inappropriate.

They believe in risk 

They hedge their liabilities when possible. We tell our candidates to make a list of priorities in advance of any interviews. Once they begin to fall in or out of love with a company using that list, their logic remains intact as the frame of reference to which they compare all opportunities. They tend not to endanger the economic well-being of families, but they also realize the risk-versus-reward concept.

Early in my career, we learned that some make things happen, some watch things happen and some ask “what happened?” Winning executives know their choices.


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