I strongly believe that most of the project managers have a very solid basis to build upon and grow as future leaders. In my previous article “Project Managers have the skills to become CEOs, so why don’t they?”

Climbing the Corporate LadderI provided evidence – for the first time – that project managers have all the skills and competencies to make it into the CEO’s position. However, as we all know, this is not enough; there is still a glass ceiling in the career path of project managers.

The biggest hurdle for most project managers is recognising that it’s not just about planning and organizational skills; they have to really understand the business or organization they are working for, the strategy, the culture, the history, the products and services, the market, the competition.

The purpose of this article is to you share the additional skills a project manager needs to develop to break that glass ceiling and make it to the top position in an organization.

A recap on the 9 attributes required to that make an outstanding CEO

Russel Reynolds, one of the leading executive search companies in the world, analyzed the characteristics of nearly 4,000 executives, including over 130 CEOs, and they found nine attributes as key differentiating factors:

  1. Forward Thinking : Plans ahead and is prepared for the future
  2. Calculated Risk Taking : Is comfortable taking calculated but not careless risks
  3. Biased Toward (Thoughtful) Action : Is biased toward execution but not too impulsive
  4. Optimistic : Actively and optimistically pursues new opportunities
  5. Constructively Tough Minded : Is thick skinned and perseverant but not insensitive
  6. Efficient Reader of People : Seeks to understand different perspectives but does not overanalyse
  7. Measured Emotion : Displays intensity/emotion but maintains control
  8. Pragmatically Inclusive : Involves others in decisions but also is an independent decision maker
  9. Willingness to Trust : Is comfortable with a variety of people but is not too trusting

And those of a Project Manager?

According to most academic studies of project management, the qualities of a PM are categorized into the following three areas:

  • Project Management Core skills. These skills include planning, organizing, managing risks, anticipating issues, and coordinating the work
  • Technical expertise. Technical knowledge gives the project manager the creditability to provide leadership on a technically based project, the ability to understand important aspects of the project, and the ability to communicate in the language of the technicians.
  • Interpersonal skills. These skills include providing direction, communicating, motivating, assisting with problem solving, and dealing effectively with people without having authority.

We compared the core project management competencies and skills to the nine CEOs attributes, and we saw that a good project manager will actually meet all of them, which proves my starting assumptions: PM should be, in principle, considered CEO material !!


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In addition to the five books he has authored, Antonio has contributed to seven other business books.

But then…. what is the secret?

What else do you need to increase your chances of becoming the leader of your organization?

Besides the core skills that a project manager will develop through his/her career, which as we have seen represent a very solid basis to have the potential of becoming a CEO, here are the additional skills you should develop in order to make it happen:

  1. You need to have a “vision” to create something that can generate recurring revenues and growth to the organization.
  2. You need to be results driven and focus on delivering the benefits and impact of the project. A common path to CEO is through sales which are also a results driven environment, but those who bring in revenue will always be more visible. Plus, successful sales often require navigating the prospect’s political environment to close the deal.
  3. Assume Profit and Loss responsibilities, beyond your projects. That can be done by gaining business unit (line) management experience.
  4. Increase your organizational intelligence competencies. In general, the best PMs are often not the most popular people in the company. Although they have diplomatic skills, they don’t jeopardised their project objectives or deadlines,… just for being nice with people…..If they have to get things done, sometimes they leave a few heads on the road…. and they don’t spend lots of times doing internal politics…
  5. Don’t neglect the “soft” skills, including charisma, political prowess and strategic vision, and continuous education in complementary disciplines, such as psychology, finance, sales and marketing – I always say that the on the best combinations of growing a successful CEOs are those that have completed an Master in Business Administration (MBA) and are able to deliver projects successful
  6. Last but not least, develop your entrepreneurial skills. The ability to take risks, drive, ability to inspire others etc. is something often required to become a successful corporate leader.

In summary – you have the skills to make it to the top, be confident in yourself, keep learning and spend time understanding and connecting your work to the business.

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