Episode #4

Tales of the C-Suite

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to make it in the C-Suite?

All too often l hear tales of women saying: “I just can’t land the role!”
While they may have worked hard, even completed multiple degrees, and have years of relevant experience, they are left wondering what does it really take to make it in the C-Suite?
Through my years as the Group Chief Operating Officer of a $100m+ private company, I observed that, beyond competence, there are five attributes that are shared by those who rise to the top and take ‘a seat at the table’:
Those who succeed in the C-Suite can Decode the boardroom: this means they can read underneath what is being said. They read people and situations to decode what is happening. They look out for what is not being said and why, and draw out the hidden connections between disparate matters. You must be a silent observer, a passionate campaigner (before, during and after a meeting) and a listening ear of reason.
Can you show Resilience under extreme pressure? While resilience is important for all senior positions, the ability to retain composure and a calm indifference under the type of pressure surfaced in the C-Suite is key. Resilience is the ability to stay strong, focused and unwavering while being open to altering your position in line with rapidly changing information.  

Show and have Respect: In this context, respect means to consider the responsibility of the role you and your peers are undertaking – a senior leadership team is about governance, it is about guiding the organisation to be a good corporate citizen and to reach its organisational goals. You need to respect your peers in the C-Suite, the board, stakeholders and the community too. You give it and you will receive it. Remember everyone has a role to play and something to offer, this is what makes a brilliant leadership team.

Being in the C-Suite is not about your agenda, and it is not a solo act. Make sure you have a Supporting Network to draw upon. You need a trusted support network of advisors to whom you can draw upon for advice and for strategic introductions. Have you looked to who is on the board, can you learn from them and add value to them? Being part of the C-Suite is to be part of a group who together makes a difference in guiding an organisation. Consider whom you hold in close proximity, within the organisation and beyond, and what you need to do to foster these relationships.

And finally, exhibiting confidence is not enough. Those who succeed in the C-Suite have the higher order skill called Command. I call this their Gravitas. This is what really sets people apart. It is a special presence that can be quiet and unassuming, yet it holds the room when they speak. Gravitas is demonstrated through an ability to handle difficult situations in uncharted waters. Those with gravitas are taken seriously, influence, network and face any situation with grace and authenticity.  

Success is about more than degrees and experience. Because if having a degree or experience was enough, we would have more women on boards and in senior roles, and you wouldn’t be frustrated by hearing “You have an impressive CV and you are very qualified but…”

I know there are many qualified and experienced women who can unlock that extra thing that will take them to the next level.

Once you understand the five attributes and how to build them, you will have the secret ingredient that sets you apart from the rest. Then the senior leadership positions will be yours, you will be able to influence at a strategic level even when you have no direct power, and you will be seen and heard for all the right reasons.

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