While filling newly-created roles can be challenging, so too can serving in a position where responsibilities and benchmarks of success have yet to be clearly defined.
Thomas Frey, executive director of the futurist think tank The DaVinci Institute, told Fast Company that organizations are requiring bigger management teams to maintain their direction and methodology. New titles such as chief of business intelligence, director of strategic performance and chief of network integration, are appearing at large organizations in every sector.
Donna Padilla, senior partner and vice chair of the healthcare practice at the executive search firm of Witt/Kieffer, says those in “executive trailblazing” positions should be prepared to ask “lots of questions.” Padilla says success in these roles is as much about education as it is about execution and that candidates “really need to do their homework.” She says while any new title will have a level of ambiguity, organizations should set key goals and success factors to minimize the uncertainty. “Then it becomes incumbent upon the executive to educate others about how he or she fits into the executive team and how the role will help drive the success of the organization,” says Padilla.
Padilla also says that executives should rely on flexibility and directness as they’ll become “architects” of the new position. Trailblazing executives should also reach out to an external network of professionals to learn best practices from other organizations.
Jayne Howze, managing director of executive search firm the Alexander Group, said in a blog post that while some new titles are contrived in an attempt “to be hip,” others have been created to address a real need. She says an important consideration is how the executive in the new position will function within the organization. In new positions there are few candidates who have held exact positions, so boards are often left with executives who have experience only in small pieces of the position. Executive trailblazers who find themselves in newly-created roles should focus more on their leadership experience than fret over the details of the role.
“What is important is the ability to have a large scale impact, many times through strong leadership and relationship-building skills,” says Howze.
Many companies today are looking for CEOs with more well-rounded experience than the traditional route to the top. Could one of these new titles hold that key? Only time will tell.