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Are you CEO material?

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Look beyond today’s recession. A new crop of chief executives must run tomorrow’s companies. Are you ready?

Dennis Carey is a senior partner at Korn/Ferry, an executive search firm, and co-author of CEO Succession. He conducted the searches for the current CEOs of 3M, Tyco International and other corporations.

Managing People at Work interviews Carey:

MPAW: What separates managers who become CEOs from those who never climb the ladder?

Carey: Some managers focus on one line of business or a single function—and are then perceived as, say, just a financial or marketing person. We recommend a 2x2x2 model where the manager serves two functions within the company, works in two lines of the business and works in two geographies.

MPAW: How long should a manager spend in those two functions, business lines and job sites?

Carey: It could just be a few years in each. Within six to 10 years, you’ve had rotational exposure across the company.

MPAW: Are there ways managers can groom themselves to become CEO?

Carey: There’s some truth to the movie Yes Man: It’s better to say yes to an assignment even if you dread it. Don’t be afraid to say yes and take risks so that you broaden your portfolio. Also, serve on an outside board of directors so that you’re exposed to corporate governance.

MPAW: You know lots of CEOs. What personality traits do they tend to share?

Carey: They’re good listeners. It’s hard to learn if you only listen to your own counsel. Listening to even bad advice can help you make others feel that they’ve been heard. It’s also important to err on the side of humility: Those who profess to know the most actually know the least. I recently visited Ed Breen [CEO of Tyco International] and we walked the halls together. He listens to people and he knows there’s no one right answer.

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