If your ambition is steering you toward a seat at the C suite table, you’ll require a specific set of skills.  C Level positions also demand extensive experience and evidence that you’ve had a proven impact in each role you’ve moved through. There are also several career milestones you’ll need to tick off along the way.

If reaching the C suite is your ambition, then this post aims to help you. We’ll look at defining what the C suite is, and how you can position yourself effectively throughout your career to achieve C status.

What is the C Suite?

The C Suite, or “Chief” suite is the top tier of an organisation’s executive team. The C Suite can be made up of professionals from any discipline or department within the company. Despite their different areas of expertise, they all tend to have several things in common. C Executives all have extensive experience in their field, excellent leadership skills, and strong management acumen.

Not only this. C Suite executives also share a vision. As a group, they collectively develop corporate business strategies and guide their companies toward high-level objectives and goals.

How can you work toward C Suite roles?

Earning a place in the C Suite is difficult, and very few individuals reach it. However, there are several options open to you if you wish to pursue the executive path.

Achieve advanced qualifications.

Whilst a university degree or advanced degree isn’t a definite requirement, it is generally accepted that those with advanced degree qualifications have the best chance of securing C Suite jobs.

Gain industry and managerial experience.

Not all organisations hire internally for C Suite positions. However, in many cases, top-level managers compete for C-level management roles.  To be in the running, you’ll need to work hard and be relentless to earn promotions. This will solidify your leadership skills and underline your place within the company.

Additionally, you will need to secure wider industry knowledge and recognition. You may like to take opportunities to highlight your thought leadership and broader acumen across your sector.  Approach industry publications and use your own social media to raise your profile; that of being an innovative thought leader.

Take the lead.

Over time, it’s likely that your organisation will navigate periods of structural change. Acquisitions and mergers are a regular occurrence and create numerous opportunities for leaders with C Suite aspirations.  In these instances, your ability to lead effectively will stand you in good stead to be considered for C executive positions later down the line.

Offer consultative help.

Corporate consultancy work offers a myriad of opportunities for professionals looking to gain experience at a wide range of companies in a particular industry.  Consultancy work allows you to experience a wide variety of situations that position you as an authoritative voice within your sector.

Learn about becoming a board member.

Being a board member gives you a view from the top. It gives you the unique advantage of a high-level perspective and decision-making you’ll need to lead a company from the executive suite.

Explore your entrepreneurial spirit.

Start-up founders are excellent candidates for C suite positions, particularly if there is an emphasis on leadership and strategic business decision-making.  If this tactic appeals to you, you may like to make it your priority to show how you intend to shape company culture, handle internal issues, and lead the team towards essential business objectives.

Find a C Level Mentor.

Creating a mentor relationship with a C-level executive whom you admire can help gather valuable insights to help you grow your career.   With their support, you can work together to decide if a C Level role would be a good fit for you.  Your mentor will also be able to help you to assess where your strengths lie, and how you can improve to become a viable C Suite candidate.

What skills do C Suite executives need?

So now you have an idea about the routes into the C Suite, what skills do you need to help you secure your appointment?

The answer to this relates heavily to the individual C Suite role in question. For example, the Chief Technology Officer will require a very different skill set from the Chief Operating Officer.  However, there are some commonalities that define C-Suite talent.

Leadership skills.

C Suite executives must exhibit first-class leadership skills. Of course, these are fundamental to any management position. They do become more important though when it’s considered that these individuals must effectively steer both teams and entire companies.

Management experience.

For a seat at the C Suite table, you must demonstrate that you can build and manage teams able to meet objectives using the resources at hand.  To make sure you can nail this requisite skill, your career history should demonstrate that you have success at managing both small groups and entire departments, or even regions.

Decision-Making Skills.

The constant need to make big, business-led, and strategic decisions means that this is a must-have skill for C Suite execs. To excel, Chiefs must be able to implement effective decision-making strategies.  They must be able to make decisions based on data analysis and be able to weigh up all the possible options. These leaders must know how to choose, and commit, to the best course of action as swiftly as possible.


Chiefs share ideas, delegate roles, and relay plans continuously. As such, they need to be first-class communicators and be able to convey thoughts and road maps in such a way that is understood.

Risk Management.

High leadership requires the C Suite exec to understand, assess and act on risk.  If something doesn’t happen as planned, Chiefs must be able to pivot rapidly and take responsibility for the decision in the face of substantial challenges.

Time management.

The nature of the C Level role is that of long hours and big responsibility. They should have also garnered enough experience to know that strong time management skills can help the organisation to run more efficiently.

Be a visionary.

Innovation is a key requirement for C Suite executives.  As they are working their way up, aspiring C Suite candidates should always be looking to offer ideas that can make an impact and drive change within the organisation.

Which C Suite positions are open to me?

The number of C Suite positions varies widely and depending upon the size of the company there could be as many as a dozen C Suite roles.

However, in terms of digital, tech, and data these are the common C Suite job roles you could aspire to.

Chief Technology Officer / Chief Information Officer (CTO / CIO)

Depending upon the needs of the organisation, most companies employ a CTO or CIO to oversee the technology infrastructure.  To sit behind this desk, you’ll need experience in both business and information technology. Your main function will be to align business and technology strategy.  The CTO manages the entire IT team and takes the lead on researching and implementing new technologies that meet the financial, marketing and product development objectives of the business.

Chief Data Officer / Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

While the CTO / CIO handles the technology, the CDO takes care of all the data the company collects and stores.  This executive also takes care of everything from data governance to digitisation policies. In some organisations, the CDO also takes responsibility for data compliance.

Chief Security Officer (CSO)

The CSO governs all system and data security. They work in close collaboration with the CIO, CTO and CDO. The CSO takes responsibility for developing and implementing protocols that work to keep data and equipment safe from cyber threats.  If you aspire to be a CSO, you’ll need a proven career in digital security. It will also be necessary to keep up to date with all the industry trends and issues.  You should also be well versed in risk management, so that you can align your work with the company’s security and business strategies.

Are you a CTO, CIO, CDO, or CSO looking for your next executive role?  Perhaps you’re looking to extend your C Suite with a visionary and progressive individual to help lead your business into 2022 and beyond. We have a seasoned history of sourcing and placing the UK’s top tier of talent.

To hear more about Ignite’s work and how we can help you, reach out to us today.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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