CxOs – Put the Emphasis on the “C”, not the “x.”

CxOs – Put the Emphasis on the “C”, not the “x.”


A long standing belief I have held is that any senior exec who holds a CxO title, should have (or be on their way to developing) the capabilities needed to helm the enterprises they serve.

Each and every one of them.

Else – why have them be a chief at all?

Organizations all have a varied stratigraphy as to how and why they are structured the ways that they are. Chances are, yours has a smallish leadership group of folks with a C in front of their names.

Chief Executive Officer. Chief Financial Officer. Chief Marketing Officer. Chief Information Officer. Chief Information Security Officer. Chief Digital Officer. Chief Operating Officer.

All of these “chiefs” are responsible for a major area of your enterprise’s governance structure. But only a small subset of these leaders ever advance beyond their limited spans of control, to helm their company as Chief Executive Officer. Lots of CMOs, COOs, and CFOs find their way to the CEO slot; vanishingly few from the ranks of CIO, CISO, or CDO wind up inhabiting the top corner office.

In part, this is because not every chief has a business line under their control, and therefore, doesn’t get the chance to demonstrate their mastery of the business they serve.

Which is unfortunate.

But also, a major opportunity to gain a significant competitive advantage over other enterprises in your market.

The smarter large companies you see not only have segmented areas of responsibility manned by some CxO – they also give them some accountable business unit as well.

This is business succession by doing.

And it is something we all should be doing.

If you find CxOs in your organization that don’t have the attributes or talents to run the whole shebang, you should do one of two things:

  1. Train them, or
  2. Fire them.

Don’t waste your time worrying about whether someone should be a COO or a CIO or a CMO or a CDO.

Worry about whether that person could potentially be a CEO, first. The rest will take care of itself.

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