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From the foothills to the peak – advice on the journey from FC to FD to CFO to CEO

When you are aspiring to a C-suite role there’s no shortage of advice out there so what actually works? Well here’s our two penn’orth – a distillation from our Aziz Corporate consultants over more than three decades of hands on experience

Firstly – be bold!

This is no time for shrinking violets. For aspirants in the financial disciplines this can be challenging. Are you really worthy? Of course you are, but everyone who’s not an out and out sociopath has understandable doubts but don’t let ‘impostor syndrome’ ruin your prospects even before you get going.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

The early years of progress in accountancy is all based on technical ability. The reality is that by the time you have reached FC and certainly FD you have probably forgotten much of what you learned. There are much better qualified youngsters in your team, with much better memories! If you are doing your job correctly you will be using your experience to temper the technical side of the operation. So, lesson one: don’t continue to be hung up on the technicalities – delegate them.

Go Broad

As you rise in the organisation you will need an ability to relate to other disciplines in the business. This is where you will need to develop new and deeper relationships. See yourself as an enabler rather than a policemen. Help people solve their problems.
Get your own department in order and ensure you have succession, so promoting you won’t leave a gaping hole in the finance function. Great leaders are not judged just on their own leadership capabilities but on the calibre of the leaders they create, develop and leave behind as they rise up.

All the above applies to get to CFO but that final leap to CEO spans a bigger gap. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you perceived as a visionary leader, actually stuck in to the business or just a scorekeeper watching from the sidelines. This is often the toughest element of getting that CEO position. Even if you have been in the boardroom a long time you may well have been in the shadow of a charismatic CEO particularly in the eyes of the NEDs.

Can you develop charisma?

That’s a question we as coaches are often asked. The short answer is probably no, but you can, with good coaching, start to develop behaviours that help you shine. In short if you start to look the part you will start to be perceived differently. There is now compelling evidence which says that outward body behaviours drive inward attitudes so give it a go. Think yourself and behave yourself into your new job!


Khalid  – Lead Communications Skills Coach. Khalid has been coaching and advising senior executives for over 30 years. He gives direct and cogent feedback. His clients say they appreciate his no nonsense approach.

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 30 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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