The Circuitous Pathway To The C-Suite: Korn Ferry Study Reveals Executive Advancement Is More Opportunistic Than Strategic


SYDNEY, May 16, 2017 —The pathway to the top of an organisation is not an established, linear journey – it is diverse and often unplanned – according to a report issued by Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY), the preeminent global people and organisational advisory firm,

Korn Ferry’s report, The C-suite - moving up and moving-in , presents a series of in-depth interviews with leaders who have had CEO and other C-suite roles in some of Australia and New Zealand’s most respected organisations. They were asked to consider the ‘sliding doors’ moments that defined their career and the formative experiences which shaped their management style. They also shared the unexpected challenges they experienced in their first CEO role.

Korn Ferry’s Executive Chairman, Australasia, Katie Lahey said: “Most of the business leaders mentioned the increased internal scrutiny that comes with the top job and the realisation that they are being watched and viewed differently than before. They also noted that what they say is amplified and that good communication is fundamental to succeeding in the role.”

Most of the business leaders interviewed said their careers were more opportunistic than strategic.

“Perhaps this is more an indication of their willingness to try new opportunities, even if, at first, they appeared to stray from a linear career path. They were prepared to take risks and back themselves, all the while learning new skills and gaining diverse experiences,” said Ms. Lahey.

The business leaders recognise that leadership success hinges on the whole being greater than the sum of its parts and while technical excellence is important, they also evaluate their C-suite executives on other, less obvious characteristics such as their ability to contribute to the team’s success, before their own. When they are recruiting new members of their leadership team they look for executives who will fit culturally with the organisation and the other team members, possess the ability to work for the betterment of the team rather than just their area and, respect different views and ways of working.

“There are several pathways to the top and those who succeed in the C-suite to do by first working to strengthen team performance. They are not afraid of risk, take responsibility for their decisions, communicate well and can create work environments rich with understanding, opportunity and enthusiasm,” said Ms. Lahey.

Note to editors

Korn Ferry conducted interviews with: Terry Bowen, Finance Director, Wesfarmers; Rod Drury, Chief Executive Officer, Xero; Tracey Fellows, Chief Executive Officer, REA Group; Toby Hall, Group Chief Executive Officer, St Vincent’s Health Australia; Michele Kernahan, Chief Operating Officer, Fletcher Construction (a division of Fletcher Building); Stephen McCann, Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Lendlease; Chris Quin, CEO, Foodstuffs North Island, New Zealand; Clifford Rosenberg, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, LinkedIn; Mark Scott AO, Secretary, NSW Department of Education; Ann Sherry AO, Executive Chairman, Carnival Australia; Darren Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer, DEXUS Property Group. The interviews occurred between August and November 2016.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through our Executive Search, Korn Ferry and Korn Ferry divisions.

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Dan Gugler
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Asia Pacific:
Malte Weyhe
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Michele Lally
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