Five Ways to Land in the Executive Chair

Executives play in a bigger league; they play for higher stakes; and the game is for keeps. Doing the day-to-day, hands-on work doesn’t fit the job description of the executive; driving the strategy, developing the bench, and making high-caliber decisions have become the new coinage of the realm. When you understand who executives are, what they do, and how they do it, you stand a better chance of joining their ranks.

Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat
by Linda Henman


In today’s fast-paced, unprecedented, and unpredictable economy, many executives simply don’t know what to do. Conventional methods-which many never entirely understood in the first place-often don’t work during economic upheaval. Executives, especially CEOs, need something better. They need a guide that identifies the roadblocks and points out the landmines. In her more than 30 years of working with hundreds of executives, Dr. Linda Henman has observed the critical elements of success, both for the new leader and the one who aspires to the next level of success. In Landing in the Executive Chair, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the pitfalls and identify a clear plan for personal and organizational stress.
  • Leverage the first months in a new executive position- that time of transition that promises opportunity and challenge, but also brings a period of great vulnerability.
  • Create a competitive advantage, set the right tone, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your doors, and establish credibility-all while navigating unfamiliar and turbulent waters.

As organizations expand and grow, the skills that led to success often won’t sustain further development in a more complex, high-stakes environment. Present and future executives need more. They need Landing in the Executive Chair.

Here are five suggestions for enlisting in this august body of leaders:

  1. Practice F2 Leader Leadership – What explains the differences between the leader who rises steadily through the ranks versus the one whose career mysteriously jumps the track short of an executive position? If people find the fast track in the first place, they probably know how to get the job done, have displayed integrity, and offer enough intellectual acumen to succeed. When a leader offers all these and still fails, flawed leadership style may be the culprit. F2 Leaders – firm but fair leaders whom others trust – commit themselves to both relationship behavior and task accomplishment.
  2. Move beyond Problem Solving to Innovative Decision Making – As you climbed the stairs to your current position, others called on you to solve problems. The status quo changed; you figured out the cause for the change; and you returned things to the way they were. But this process only restores the status quo. It doesn’t take the company into the future. Decision making, on the other hand, requires innovative thinking and separates those who land in the executive chair from those who don’t.
  3. Tie Strategy and Execution Together – A breakthrough product, dazzling service, or cutting-edge technology can put you in the game, but only rock-solid execution of a well-developed strategy can keep you there. Effective execution pushes you to decipher your broad-brush theoretical understanding of the strategy into intimate familiarity with how it will work, who will take charge of it, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and how it will affect the organization overall.
  4. Plan Succession – The previously perceived quiet crisis of succession is now sounding its siren, and smart companies are responding by creating disciplined approaches to managing their futures. These companies realize replacement planning isn’t enough. These leaders understand you need a systematic approach to talent development.

When people characterize those who land in the executive chair, they often offer ‘vision’ as their most important attribute. Without question, effective leadership requires a strategic focus. But remember. People in mental institutions have visions, too. Seeing into the future is not enough. Those who land in the executive chair and excel there understand they must outrun their competitors, all the while inspiring loyalty among those who follow them.

About the Author

For more than 30 years, Linda Henman has helped leaders in Fortune 500 Companies, small businesses, and military organizations define their direction and select the best people to put their strategies in motion.

Linda holds a Ph.D. in organizational systems, two Master of Arts degrees in interpersonal communication and organizational development, and a Bachelor of Science degree in communication. By combining her experience as an organizational consultant with her education in business, she offers her clients selection, coaching, and consulting solutions that are pragmatic in their approach and sound in their foundation.

2 replies
  1. Darcy Lampson
    Darcy Lampson says:

    In my opinion, people today (which means most IT specialists) don’t seem to be aware of the location where the job opportunities of tomorrow will likely originate from. We’ve left the Information Age and moved into the Information Overload Age. The up coming wave of job opportunities will probably be focused on solving that problem by converting the information into understanding – otherwise, the information is worthless. Think about this, we’re creating such an abundance of data at this time that human beings lost the capability to stay up with it some time ago. Systems (can you say “AI”?) will have to do this for us. If you intend to ride the next IT trend, I’d concentrate on artificial intelligence. Views anybody?


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