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The answer has always included hard work, brains, leadership ability and luck. But in the 21st century, another, less understood attribute seems to be particularly important.To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.

...

“Work used to be much more hierarchical, and in many instances rote,” said Gary Pinkus, McKinsey & Company’s managing partner for North America. “You could build a nice career within any particular function by taking on more responsibility within that specialty. But if you look at most companies now, work has become incredibly cross-functional.”

Once upon a time, Mr. Pinkus said, an operations manager might be laser-focused on making a factory work efficiently. Now to be great at that job — and earn a promotion to vice president or beyond — that manager had better also understand how the factory’s inventory procedures tie in with the company’s sales and marketing strategy, and any tax laws affecting inventory management, while assuring the reliability of the supply chain.

The manager had better also be adept at using the technology that links all that information together.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/upshot/how-to-become-a-ceo-the... 

the stats are also interesting . 2/3 chance of being VP or c-suite with elite undergrad, top mba and 25 years exp

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VP isn't the same as C-suite, in fact depending on industry it's not even close. VP can mean you spent a lot of time in commercial banking/financial services, or work at some other company and oversee a dept of 50 employees or less.

I have worked at a big co once where VP really meant something (there were only two VPs of Finance, the CFO and one other one & every VP of the few there were was a bona fide corporate officer), but that was the exception not the rule. Most places everyone is a VP that has put in their dues & been there forever & never got laid off/sent packing. SVP a little more legwork but still not on the same level as C-suite.

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