The DNA of the COO
What’s next for the COO?
As COOs take on broader, more strategic responsibilities, they become stronger candidates for the CEO position.
Not every COO wants to become the next CEO. In fact, as many as 30% of the respondents see the operations leadership role as a destination in its own right.
Given the demands and breadth of the job, this is hardly surprising. The COOs surveyed for this report find the role extremely satisfying. The ability to influence corporate strategy, the potential for career development, and the broader perceptions of the role are all hugely appealing to those taking up such a position.
But many are hungry for more. Some 40% see themselves in a CEO or managing director role within the next five years. And their C-suite peers share that confidence: over half (53%) think that their current COO is likely to take the top job in five years’ time.
COO’s career aspirations in five years’ time
(Open question with multiple answers)
They are often designated as the “second in command” in the company and may, in effect, run the entire business when the CEO is away. As COOs take on broader, more strategic responsibilities, they become stronger candidates for the CEO position.
But although it may be increasingly common, the transition prove challenging. This is particularly true in cases where there is a strong CEO already, who is primarily the external face of the company.
There are signs from the survey that aspiring CEOs could be underestimating the scale of the challenge ahead. When asked what the COO of a big organization needs to do to achieve the next step in his or her career, 43% of COOs cite excellence in operations as the key factor, whereas just 24% point to the need for strategic thinking.
However, other stakeholders emphasize the importance of strategic thinking and downplay the need for excellence in operations. This suggests that COOs who aspire to the CEO role may need to shift their focus and play a more active role in strategy whenever they can.
A COO must display leadership skills
As the business transformation owner and the key individual tasked with the definition and implementation of strategy, the COO must be able to manage and inspire people at the highest level.
When asked about the key attributes that they needed to help them perform at their best, it is the softer skills - leadership, people management and communication - that top the list.
Attributes or skills for a COO to best perform in the role
(Percentage of respondents who have chosen 9 or 10 on a scale from 1 = not needed at all to 10 = absolutely needed)