CFOs Movin’ on Up to CEOS

My good friend and colleague, Deb Deb, forwarded me the recent Business Week link that talked about CEO churn being at a 3-year high. What does that have to do with you as a Chief Financial Officer?

As early as April 2009 I thought that the CFO-to-CEO track would become a more typical pattern.

CFOs as CEOs
CFOs as CEOs, the Update
Will 2010 Begin the Decade of the CFO?

It’s not “just” that CEO churn is up, it’s who companies are looking for to step into those CEO slots. Here’s the excerpt with my emphasis added …

“After three years of declining turnover among CEOs, churn at the top is back. As the economy improves, the rate of corner-office shakeups has picked up as more boards replace veteran CEOs with younger leaders with very different résumés.”

“Younger leaders with very different résumés” doesn’t necessarily translate to CFOs, but, it can. And it could. And it might. A recent report said that 25% of start-up CFOs make the move to CEO. That’s a pretty high statistic … and I can see that same pattern migrating beyond just start-up companies.

But generally, it’s not an easy path. If you have the lead dog as your long-term goal, then here’s what I believe it will take. You MUST

— hold a seat at the table and be intimately involved in setting and guiding vision;

— be known as a trusted advisor to the CEO, Board, investors, and shareholders;

— bring a solid track record of quantifiable operational experience … a pure finance background won’t get you to the CEO slot;

— possess stellar communication and leadership skills. That necessitates being a people-person, not just a numbers-person.

If your goal is the Chief Executive Officer seat, 2011-2012 might just prove to be the right time to position yourself to make the move.

P.S. I wrote this on the plane on the way to the CFO RoundTable in Boston on Tuesday. What was very interesting to me was the CEO on the panel affirming the second item on my list … being a trusted advisor. It’s a critically important part of the equation!

The 150 Most Influential Headhunters just posted an interactive table containing the names of the 150 Most Influential Headhunters. 

If you don’t already have a relationship with these folks, contacting them with a plea for their help and a copy of your resume probably won't be very beneficial. However, understanding who needs to know about you, and getting on their radar screen, can position you well for the future.

Some Good Folks to Know

Business Week has published The World’s Most Influential Headhunters.

Do you know about them? More importantly, do they know about you?

Now, before you start firing off cold resumes to these recruiters, remember … what they are most interested in is a relationship with a top–performing passive candidate. It all starts with a relationship.