Bye Bye Organization Man

From Knowledge@Wharton comes a very interesting piece about the new path to CEO status.

When Edward D. Breen was named chairman and CEO of scandal-plagued Tyco International in July 2002, one national magazine reasoned that he had taken on a job that would make "lesser CEOs quake in their wingtips." But Breen's footsteps to the top were not just steady; they also tracked a new pathway to the executive suite, one no longer dictated by the older, company-trained, academic-elite candidates. Breen was 46, a graduate of a non-Ivy League school and, to everyone's relief, had moved up the corporate ranks of another company entirely, never holding a job at Tyco until he was named CEO.

As one of the top human resource executives at EDS, Tracey M. Friend found that her entrepreneurial background was a plus when she interviewed for the job of portfolio manager for recruitment services. A graduate of the University of Florida, the 35-year-old Friend had already built and sold her own Internet recruitment and training company and worked for two competing technology companies before joining EDS last August. "Skills and capabilities open the doors, not degrees," she said.

It's becoming less important to have an Ivy League degree, and it seems that analytical skills have increased in value. (I say that because there are more finance, law, and MBA backgrounds at the CEO level than there used to be) The article points to how many CEOs are now hired from outside as proof that you don't have to work your way up the corporate ladder, but I don't think that is necessarily a sign that experience with an organization doesn't matter. In my opinion, it points out how many companies are doing a lousy job of developing leaders internally. Nonetheless, the general idea is still correct – performance matters more than anything else, and there is no longer a "right" to the job just because you put in your time.

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