by Joe Chappell
Dec 12 2011
Jeffrey S. Sanders, Vice Chairman and Managing Partner of the North American CEO Practice for Heidrick & Struggles, an AESC member executive search and leadership consulting firm, recently analyzed the careers of all current Fortune 500 CEOs in an article at Forbes.com.
Aspiring CEOs need to create a path for themselves to become a potential CEO candidate. What does this path look like?
- 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs began their careers in finance
- 20% began their careers in sales and marketing
- Even though finance is an important building block, only about 5% were promoted directly from CFO
- More than half were promoted from the role of COO or President
- Most companies value financial acumen, but above all, they value a strong operator
The article reports that executives rarely arrived at CEO from a finance role, with a few exceptions. Instead, more than three quarters came from an operating role.
- Consulting at 4% ranked the least common early career experience among CEOs
- More than three-fourths of today's top leaders were appointed internally
- Less than a third of CEOs were "lifers" (those who had spent nearly their entire career at the company)
- Average time to CEO appointment when rising through the ranks = 16 years
- Average age at CEO appointment = 50
- Technology offers the fastest path to CEO
- Industrial companies offer the slowest path to CEO
- About 45% of CEOs served as non-executive directors on public company boards before being named CEO