Case in point: Raymond Gilmartin, chairman of Merck & Co., the huge pharmaceutical company.
Gilmartin, 59, broke this rule at a pivotal moment in his career. In 1985, he was running a division that earned 60 percent of the profits for a big medical supply firm. The company’s CEO asked Gilmartin to take a staff job.
Gilmartin rejected the offer at first because he didn’t want to sacrifice a high-level line position for a staff job. But after sleeping on it, he accepted the move because he figured he could make a contribution.
The result: Within six months, he earned another promotion and within two years he became the company’s president.