journey to leadership

Four Common Threads Found in Successful Executive Leadership Development Stories

The paths that executives take on their journeys to leadership can be as varied as the executives themselves. But while that was found to be true when the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) conducted interviews with three executives from member firms, we also discovered some similarities.

Common threads uncovered in the stories from this diverse group include:
  • Managers who had faith in them, sometimes before they had faith in themselves
  • Fearlessness about accepting risk, stepping into the unknown
  • Embracing new challenges as opportunities to learn and grow
  • Connecting formal learning to real business situations

The profiled executives’ stories are told in a new report, Journey to Leadership: Lessons from Three Successful Executives. Executives featured in the new report are:

Hugh Gagnier, Senior VP, Engineering & Operations at Zebra Technologies

Gagnier’s rise at Zebra Technologies, the world’s largest supplier of barcode technology, included developing both technical and leadership know-how. “The components just started fitting together, and that’s the real magic,” he says. Gagnier benefited from working with a board of directors at a start-up company early in his career. The board helped in making the transition from thinking like a start-up to thinking strategically.

Dominique Ben Dhaou, Senior VP, HR at SGS

Ben Dhaou values the change and challenge presented to her at SGS, a Geneva, Switzerland-based testing/inspection/certification firm that operates a network of over 1,500 offices and laboratories worldwide. Stepping up to accept the challenges of stretch assignments and geographic relocations are hallmarks of her career. “A lot has happened through raising hands or challenging the status quo,” she says.

David Harmon, Deputy Director and CHCO in a Federal agency

With experience ranging from the soft drink industry to retail to technology—plus experience as an independent business consultant—Harmon describes a winding road before transitioning to a Federal agency. Rotations to other functions have featured prominently in his career development. “My journey wasn’t a straight line to the top. At almost every company, I stepped sideways—to operations, to sales. Stepping outside of my function gave me an opportunity to see the business from another point of view.

This new report completes a series addressing the acceleration of leadership development: Accelerating High-Potential Employees on the Path to Leadership (published in May) and How High-Performance Organizations Accelerate Executive Leadership Development (published in June).