5 Traits Senior-Level Professionals Must Have to Advance to the C-Suite


Being promoted from a senior level to an executive position proves that you’re a successful and accomplished leader within an organization.

This also reveals that you are about to embark on another level of challenges that will require a different mindset and traits in order to be successful. With this in mind, I will touch on the 5 traits a senior level professional must have to advance to a C-suite position.

  1. Know What it Takes to be an Executive

Being an executive is one of the most challenging yet rewarding positions you can have at an organization. Knowing this, you must have a specific kind of mindset before you set foot in your corner office. This is why you must learn the ins and outs of how a successful executive leads their department. This can be achieved by not only investing in some executive level leadership courses, but also to develop a group of mentors or executives that can tell you both the good and challenging lessons they have learned.

Also read: The Road Less Traveled to the C-Suite

  1. Anticipate Another Level of Challenges

As you move into the executive ranks, you must clearly know that the challenges you faced as a senior level manager will be totally different as an executive. This is not to deter anyone who has the desire to become an executive, but I’ve advised numerous senior level professionals on how to prepare themselves for this shift. The best way to wrap your brain around what lies ahead, is to talk to other executives both inside and outside your current company. Ask them to give you the good, but more importantly the bad times, and what they did to overcome. Always remember, there more lessons in the failures than the victories.

  1. Develop an “Executable Executive Vision Plan”

As you move into another level of leadership, you must have a solid vision and executable plan to get you and your team to your envisioned destination. At the very least, your executable executive vision plan should have the top 5 challenges your department is currently facing, a roadmap on how to address those challenges, and the pros and cons of each of your employees that will be at the forefront of fixing those challenges. Do not share this executive plan with your existing boss only, share it with everyone on your team, as you all have a role to play in overcoming those challenges..

  1. Start Communicating Your Plan

This is a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many professionals put a large amount of time creating and tweaking their plan that they forget to communicate it throughout the organization. It’s imperative that you communicate your new plan with your boss and to your direct reports. You want to present your plan to them, and have them provide feedback, and give you a realist understanding on what’s feasible and what’s completely unattainable.

Also read: 5 Reasons Your Team Doesn’t Buy Your Game Plan

  1. Preparing Your Direct(s) to Take Your Old Position

A great leader will always prepare their direct reports to take their position. As you prepare to make your transition into the executive ranks, you want to make sure that the person or people that will take your old position know your job inside out. The best approach to guarantee this is to delegate small pieces of your job to your MVPs, and observe how they will handle the it. If they handle the additional task just as good as, or even better than you, make that a permanent piece of their job, and explain to them that this is the kind of workload that you are responsible for, thus exposing them to a high level of responsibility. If they don’t complete the task as well as you expected, coach them on what they can do to be better and to become more successful at completing this specific task. Implementing this process over and over again will undoubtedly prepare the MVP that you have earmarked to become your successor.  This also sets you and your direct support up for success because the learning curve has been dramatically reduced.

QUESTION: What are other traits a senior level professional must have to advance to a C-suite position? Share them in the comments below.

About the Author

Eric B. Horn is the founder of Eric B. Horn, Inc. ( a professional development firm that provides career coaching, consulting, and training for professionals to enhance their self-value and equip them with marketplace savvy to accomplish their goals and dreams. Eric is also the author of “How Professional Is Your Development? Vol. 1 11 self-development tips for entry level professionals to achieve career success."