What It Takes to Be a Leader in General Science

While life sciences have taken center stage during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Dr. Anthony Fauci taking on almost mythic leadership status, general-science leadership has shared the spotlight and has called attention to what Lund University associate professor Sverre Spoelstra calls “the dichotomy between leaders and bureaucrats that underpins popular leadership notions, such as visionary leadership, transformational leadership and authentic leadership.”

 

Steven Dewhurst points out that science leadership is less individually focused than it was in the days of “brilliant iconoclasts,” like Copernicus and Marie Curie, and instead, much more team-driven, as well as more interdisciplinary. “Major opportunities for discovery increasingly lie at the intersection of different fields,” Dewhurst says. Team leadership affords the opportunity for science leaders to coax the best out of team members. “A less effective scientific leader,” notes Jason Erk, “may unknowingly squander [team member] potential that might have flourished under different circumstances.”

 

The people-leadership skills that enable scientists to guide effective teams, however, are often deficient in science leaders. “When comparing skills in non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) employees and STEM employees, those from a STEM background are perceived to lack interpersonal skills and time management,” write Rowan Brookes and co-authors write in Scientific American. Experts note that soft skills, such as people management, are typically not included in scientific training.

 

Women are underrepresented in science leadership. The higher the notch in the hierarchy, the less likely we are to find female science leaders, asserts GenderInSITE’s report, Pathways to Success:  Bringing a Gender Lens to the Scientific Leadership of Global Challenges. Causal factors include lack of challenging assignments for women; overvaluation of male opinions and ideas, accompanied by undervaluation of women’s intellectual contributions; an expectation that women must worker harder for less money; work environments that are “dismissive” at best and hostile at worst. Women, note Marla Parker and Eric Welch in an academic paper, “are more likely to be in discipline leadership positions and less likely to be a leader of a research center or have an administrative university leadership position.”

 

Preferred Background

Scientists typically hold doctoral degrees and serve in postdoctoral positions as researchers for two to three years. Those who’ve been trained as a scientist, writes David G. Jensen, usually begin at the research scientist level. Jensen discusses the “dual ladder” concept in which a scientist can reach a high-level role in the hierarchy, such as principal scientist (roughly equivalent to the vice-president level) without having to take on administrative and management functions. Of course, some scientists may prefer a path with those functions, such as those Jensen lays out – business development, regulatory affairs, sales and marketing, operations, or project management.

 

Desirable Characteristics

Additional leadership characteristics recommended for aspiring general science leaders include the following:

See also a nice list of skills at various levels detailing resources about those skills.

 

Leadership Styles in the General Science Field

As in many fields, scientists are often encouraged to adapt their leadership style to what is needed at any given time, thus a flexible or situational leadership style. Writing for Forbes, George Bradt characterizes “scientific leadership” as a style unto itself. “Scientific leaders guide and inspire by influencing knowledge with their thinking and ideas,” Bradt writes.

 

Resources

These resources offer additional insight on leadership in general science:

 

What It Takes to Be a Leader in Engineering

Engineering leadership has a bit of an identity crisis. Much of this crisis stems from the fact that engineers have a highly technical focus that may not include traditional leadership skills, such as interpersonal communication and people-management.

 

“For individuals whose love of engineering comes from their technical problem solving,” Cindy Rottmann and co-authors write in the academic journal Leadership, “the sudden shift to resolving ‘people problems’ can feel both uncomfortable and un-engineer-like.” The article quotes one study participant who suggests that the word “leadership” is “antithetical to the engineering mind-set.” The authors point to a mismatch between the identities of engineers and traditional notions of leadership. Engineers’ identities, the authors note, tend toward applied scientist, service professional, team player, technical problem solver, task-oriented doer, and process optimizer, while traditional leadership identities tend to be charismatic visionaries, influential dwellers at the top of the hierarchy, change agents, delegators, and solvers of people problems.

 

Another mismatch occurs between engineering leadership and business expectations. Siva Kumar cites a study that showed that 33 percent of engineering-project failures are the result of insufficient direct oversight by executive leadership, noting that a well-defined engineering strategy is the only way to overcome this mismatch.

 

Perhaps reflecting engineering leadership’s quest for identity, researchers in the field are eager to define engineering leadership. One of several such proposed definitions comes from Robyn Paul, Arindom Sen, and Emily Wyatt, writing in 2018 for American Society for Engineering Education:

“Engineering leadership is an approach that influences others to effectively collaborate and solve problems. Engineering leadership requires technical expertise, authenticity, personal effectiveness, and the ability to synthesize diverse expertise and skillsets. Through engineering leadership, individuals and groups implement transformative change and innovation to positively influence technologies, organizations, communities, society, and the world at large.”

 

Statistics on women in engineering are elusive, but given that just 13 percent of engineers were women as of 2019, the female share of leadership roles is even smaller. Barriers to women’s leadership in engineering include a lack of role models. Incremental change is on the horizon, thanks to the major push in recent years to encourage women to pursue STEM careers.

 

Preferred Background

Engineering leadership in project- or process-management roles is typically preceded by 5-10 years of technical work, note Rottmann and co-authors. The disconnect between engineering and leadership would seem to be the motivation for the emergence of engineering-leadership education in which “the focus is placed on interpersonal communication (vs. organizational communication) and understanding of motivation and behaviors of self and with respect to interactions with others,” says mechanical engineering professor David Bayliss.

 

One educational option for aspiring engineering leaders is the Master of Engineering Management degree. Another is an MBA, which leadership expert Tanveer Nasseer says enables engineers to “easily move into management.”

 

A typical career path to engineering leadership starts with engineer and progresses through engineer II, senior engineer, staff engineer, to principal engineer. Among roles at the executive level are director of engineering, vice president of engineering, chief engineer, and senior vice president of engineering. A blog called The Magnet offers a helpful list of types of engineering and engineering roles at all levels.

 

Desirable Characteristics

Rottman and co-authors note three possible orientations to engineering leadership: technical mastery, collaborative optimization, or organizational innovation. Those oriented toward innovation need leadership skills, but Ohio University notes that traditional engineering education has emphasized management over leadership. The university also suggests development of such soft skills as communication and people skills. Additional leadership characteristics recommended for aspiring engineering leaders include the following:

 

Leadership Styles in the Engineering Field

Little is written about leadership styles in engineering. Brendon Davis of Davis Companies proposes engineers fall into four leadership styles – Envisioners, Analyzers, Feelers, and Doers. Kettering University identifies the coaching, transformational, and servant leadership styles as most appropriate for engineers. A study of 70 lead engineers across a variety of industries and project types by research and consulting firm Independent Project Analysis found that “engineers exhibiting a supportive leadership style tend to place importance on people management skills and spend more time communicating.”

 

Jack Kora, VP of engineering at dscout, shares an interesting first-person case study about changing his leadership style, describing how, when he started a new position, he failed to first build trust with his team and started making changes his team didn’t always understand. When an employee-satisfaction survey showed negative attitudes toward Kora, he began to research leadership styles and determined his was the wrong approach at this new company. While he never identifies his former or subsequent leadership styles, he cites a Fast Company article on six leadership styles – pacesetting, authoritative, affiliative, coaching, coercive, and democratic – as his inspiration for developing a more appropriate style.

 

Resources

These resources offer additional insight on leadership in engineering:

What It Takes to Be a Leader in Healthcare

Because labor costs typically consume 50 to 60 percent of a hospital’s operating revenue, less-than-stellar leadership can have a significant impact. “Healthcare organizations represent a system of processes, people, and other resources that must be led effectively to achieve the desired outcome of high-quality, safe patient care,” writes Carol J. Huston, a nursing leader and nurse educator.

While healthcare leadership encompasses a number of diverse roles, the functions of healthcare leaders usually include planning and overseeing healthcare services in compliance with laws and regulations while striving to improve quality and efficiency, often with the assistance of new technologies. “Effective leadership,” notes the blog of Advent Health University, “has been positively associated with increased patient satisfaction and lower rates of adverse health results.”

Leadership roles in healthcare include population-health leader, patient-safety leader, patient-experience leader, change-management leader, staffing/scheduling leader, in addition to C-Suite positions like Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Learning Officer (CLO), Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Clinical Department Manager, and Chief Quality Officer (CQO).

Arguably, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected healthcare more than any other industry and has required an adaptive leadership style. Writing for the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst site, physician Kevin Lobdell and his co-authors assert that the healthcare system is not well structured to address a pandemic in an interconnected and interdependent world. “Prioritizing engaged leadership, and emphasizing a more team-oriented approach to care delivery and collaboration across institutions,” Lobdell et al write, “will improve systems in the short-term, and ultimately, set conditions for long-term change.”

The pandemic is not the only leadership challenge healthcare leaders face. Tim Flanagan of HealthCare Recruiters International also cites revenue outpaced by spending, increasing regulations, demand for new levels of quality and cost transparency, a surge in non-traditional competitors, expansion of population health, and rapidly changing technology.

Preferred Background: Education and Experience

Because leadership roles in healthcare are diverse, no typical path of education and experience exists, but for the top leadership role of hospital CEO, a Master of Health Administration or Hospital Administration degree is common, along with at least eight years’ experience in administrative, healthcare, and management positions, notes the University of Scranton’s page on executive-leadership strategies in the medical field.

Desirable Characteristics

An array of hard skills, soft skills, and personal traits are keys to success in healthcare leadership. Comprehensive resources on competencies in healthcare leadership include the Healthcare Leadership Alliance Competency Directory, downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet, Leadership Competencies for Health Services Managers from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), and the Health Leadership Competency Model from the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL). Additional leadership characteristics include the following:

healthcare leadership skills table

Predominant Leadership Styles in the Healthcare Industry

Researchers have found that simply deploying a leadership of any kind has a positive effect in healthcare. Danae Sfantou and co-authors write of their research, “Leadership styles were found to be strongly correlated with quality care and associated measures,” going on to document associations between individual styles and positive outcomes: “Transformational and resonant leadership styles are associated with lower patient mortality, while relational and task-oriented leadership are significantly related to higher patient satisfaction.” The researchers found increased patient satisfaction closely related to transformational, transactional, and collaborative leadership.

Bhagyashree Sudhakar Joshi studied 41 healthcare leaders, learning that they used 10 leadership styles (autocratic, democratic, bureaucratic, laissez faire, paternalistic, transactional, charismatic, transformational, visionary, and coaching) to some extent, with the majority adopting a democratic style. Joshi concluded that hospital leaders should adopt a mixed leadership style.

While many healthcare experts like Joshi argue for a mix of leadership styles, others promote one specific style as most appropriate for the healthcare field. Victor Trastek, Neil Hamilton, and Emily Niles make a case for Servant Leadership in an article for the Mayo Clinic. “Servant leadership [is] the best model for health care organizations because it focuses on the strength of the team, developing trust and serving the needs of patients,” the authors assert. Tony P. Ospina touts transformational leadership, noting that “transformational leadership is not a ‘cure all’ remedy for the current issues in healthcare, but it addresses many common challenges that are faced.” Similarly, scholars Alenka Žibert and Andrej Starc point out that “transformational leadership is often associated with greater efficiency and positive organizational results, and consequently achieves a higher success rate of change.”

Resources

These excellent guides to leadership paths in the healthcare industry are available:

Outlook for the Chief Nursing Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CNO

The Chief Nursing Officer (sometimes known as Chief Nursing Executive) is the top-ranking nursing management professional in any healthcare organization. A July 2017 study of CNOs by AMN Healthcare and The Center for the Advancement of Healthcare Professionals identified about 3,800 CNOs in the United States. The study found these CNOs spent most of their time on culture and operations. Approximately 68 percent of them report directly to the CEO; 91 percent are part of a senior-management team.

The CNO role has evolved from a focus primarily on hospital-based patient care to one much more tied to the organization’s success and results. “When I first graduated from college,” recalls CNO Carol Boston-Fleischhauer in an interview by Thomas Seay, “nurse executives were called ‘nursing directors’ and were typically focused on ensuring that inpatient nursing care was compassionate, safe, and effective – period.” Today, however, Boston-Fleischhauer notes, “organizations recognize that nursing is core to the strategic achievement of outcomes, including clinical, financial, growth/market share, and the like.” To attain those outcomes, she observes that CNOs collaborate directly with the chiefs of medicine, finance, strategy, IT, and quality, “to drive achievement of strategic as well as operational goals.” A respondent to the AMN Healthcare study similarly summarized the role’s evolution “from just staffing the nurse department to being a key player in setting and achieving organizational goals and decision-making for major changes.”

The role’s scope now extends far beyond the healthcare facility. “The CNO role now spans the entire care continuum, from telehealth and community-based care to home health and more, says Lamont M. Yoder, in an interview in Nurse Leader by Heather O’Sullivan. Blogger Pat Magrath calls CNOs consummate problem-solvers, noting that the CNO “balances passion for patient welfare with administrative management.”

Key Competencies for the CNO Role

The CNO role requires at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and often a Master of Science in Nursing (with a suggested concentration in Nursing Administration or Leadership in Health Care Systems, or a dual degree in which the MSN is paired with a Master of Health Administration) or a doctorate in nursing (Doctor of Nursing Practice). Another master’s option is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Dual MSN/MBA. Licensure, of course, is a must, with nurses obtaining a state license as a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Additional certifications also are available, including the Nurse Executive certification (NE-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), certifications in Executive Nursing Practice and Management and Leadership (CNML) from the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), and Certified in Executive Nursing Practice Certification (CENP), also from AONL. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) also offers a credential, Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

A nursing career path leading to CNO includes gaining at least five years of increasingly responsible clinical roles that include management.

“As any nurse manager on the executive track will tell you,” exhorts Jackie Larson, senior vice president of a healthcare recruiting firm, “their performance on the job requires skills and aptitude well beyond their training as nurses.” When preparing career-marketing communications to send to employers, those aspiring to the CNO role should emphasize these qualities:

  • Passion for performance-driven, high-level leadership
  • Patient-care champion, focused on patient-care service and best quality and safety practices
  • Strong advocacy abilities to serve as spokesperson for nursing staff
  • Problem-solver
  • Keen business sense
  • Ability to foster a collaborative and strategic environment
  • Expertise in regulatory and compliance approvals and accreditations
  • Ability to partner with physicians as well as cultivate relationships across functions and departments
  • Change champion

In an article directed at those hiring a Chief Nursing Officer, these competencies and qualities were cited: an eye for detail, current clinical skills, critical-thinking skills, proactive approach to staffing, knowledge of when to lead and when to manage, business acumen, a “data junkie” approach, goal-setting behavior, as well as both knowledge of the big picture and the ability to communicate the bigger picture. The 2017 AMN Healthcare study identified five crucial evolving competencies for nurse leaders: influencing innovation, spanning boundaries, collaboration, expanding the accessibility and use of technology, and courage

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CNO role, expand their horizons in an existing CNO role, or even rise beyond the CNO role:

  • Boost your expertise on the business side. Experts have identified lack of business acumen as an area for improvement for CNOs. “Even if they have completed BSN or MSN degrees,” Larson notes, “the curriculum they have completed typically does not contain enough, if any, of the business training they will need to perform and advance their careers. The bulk of that learning, at least initially, is done on the job and/or through a mentor.” In her 2015 research Charlene Ingwell-Spolan noted that nurse executives “are unprepared to fully communicate in financial, business terms.” Instead, Ingwell-Spolan points out, “clinical decisions in the health care business are often made by the financial and business executives without full and adequate input from the CNO.”

A list of advice tips for CNOs that Anuja Vaidya collected for Becker’s Hospital Review features these cautionary words from Kathleen Sanford, RN, Chief Nursing Officer of CommonSpirit Health in Chicago: “Looking back over a lengthy career, the one piece of advice I would give my younger self is this: Get as much management and leadership education and knowledge as possible, as early as possible.” Other experts advise reading as many books as possible on executive management and leadership, as well as sharpening strategic skills. “Today’s CNO,” Larson asserts, “must be as comfortable talking about methods to improve productivity and reporting and the strategic importance (or lack thereof) of an IT initiative as they are about patient care initiatives.”

  • Advocate for your nursing staff. “Nursing is the largest, most trusted workforce in all of health care and a critical asset to leverage,” points out Boston-Fleischhauer. Serving as the voice for the nursing workforce is seen as a way for nurse leaders to get ahead. “The key to moving forward is having strong nurse leaders who are willing to advocate for nursing in the C-suite,” says Katie Boston-Leary, chief nursing officer at University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center. 
  • Join or create a peer-support group. That’s the advice of Shane Parker, a nurse who founded a hospital-scheduling software form. The group could be local or could encompass nurse leaders all over if it’s virtual. Parker suggests the group discuss practical and theoretical leadership concepts. Even without a group structure, Parker points out, CNOs can informally seek advice and support from their counterparts by phone or email. “No matter how you construct your support group,” Parker says, “you’ll benefit from interacting regularly with those who have ‘been there, done that.’” 
  • Gain varied experience by serving as an interim CNO. The 2017 AMN Healthcare study reported that “many organizations turn to interim management as a proven way to bridge leadership transitions;” in fact, 50% percent of nurse executives have utilized interim leadership services. Serving in interim role provides the opportunity for CNOs to gain diverse experience.

 CNO Trends to Watch 

  • Millennials are prevalent in the nursing workforce. About 50 percent of nurses today are of millennial age. One CNO goes so far as to have taken on a millennial nurse mentor so she can understand this demographic. “I think it’s important to stay on top of the issues of the nurses coming in and managing the different generations, [and] to be able to provide opportunities for growth, preceptorship, and communication methods,” states Karen Clements, CNO at New Hampshire-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
  • Patient and consumer engagement come to the forefront. For the past several years, healthcare systems have been encouraged to engage with patients even when they’re well, Shane Parker observes. Consequently, former CNO Davy Crocket suggests that CNOs “be the Chief Patient Engagement Officer whether you have the title or not. Have a philosophy that the patient and family is always right, even when they are not. You may be the clinical expert, but they know what matters most to them. Engaging patients in their care leads to better outcomes.”
  • CNOs are well positioned to be change agents. Crockett also believes CNOs “must become masters of managing organizational change to guide their healthcare system through the constant flux of innovation and disruption.” He advises CNOs to study change-management techniques and be aware that a CNO’s ability to manage change in 2020 and beyond “plays a pivotal role in how well your organization performs in the marketplace.”

Outlook for Chief Telehealth Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a CTO

Of all C-Suite roles, the Chief Telehealth Officer (CTO) role is arguably the most affected by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and is thus likely to present growth opportunities.

The Chief Telehealth Officer role is sometimes identical or similar to roles with such titles as CEO for Telemedicine, Chief Health Information Officer, and Chief Healthcare Technology Officer, the latter two of which may encompass telehealth along with other aspects of health technology. At companies whose sole focus is telehealth, the CEO role becomes synonymous with Chief Telehealth Officer.

In what CNBC’s Bertha Coombs calls “a massive expansion” from pre-pandemic telemedicine usage, virtual health-care interactions were predicted to top 1 billion by the end of 2020, aided in part by government expansion of Medicare reimbursement for telehealth as part of its stimulus package. In a study by Clearlink, a marketing company focused on customer experience, almost 75 percent of respondents said they’d consider using telehealth to be remotely screened for COVID-19, with two-thirds agreeing the pandemic has increased their willingness to try virtual care.

Even before the pandemic, however, telehealth was on an upward trajectory; in 2019 Lyle Berkowitz, MD, Chief Medical Officer for MDLive, attributed growth to “consumer demand, reimbursement alignment, and an improved regulatory environment.” Reduced costs, potential to generate patient satisfaction, and the quest for quality also contribute to telehealth’s growth. Virtual care is seen as a way to help prevent caregiver burnout.

Strong leadership and telehealth governance are seen as keys to growth by Telehealth and Medicine Today researchers Bryan Arkwright, Jeff Jones, Thomas Osborne, Guy Glorioso, and John Russo, Jr., who assert from an implementation perspective, the “telehealth executive champion” and the “telehealth leader” play important roles.

Key Competencies for the CTO Role

The Telehealth and Medicine Today researchers identified four sources for “telehealth executive champion” hires: Internal candidates with experience in telehealth planning or operational implementation, internal candidates with backgrounds in business development and leading clinical operations, telehealth-experienced external hires who have started and led a “matrix-aligned telehealth program,” and interim leaders from organizations open to all viable and established solutions, as well as experience starting and leading a matrix-aligned telehealth program.

Typically, an MD degree is required for the CTO role.

When preparing career-marketing communications to send to employers, those aspiring to the CTO role should emphasize these qualities:

  • Ability to recruit physicians and allied-health professionals to the telehealth program.
  • Vision for the organization’s clinical direction.
  • Knowledge of emerging models in healthcare delivery.
  • Healthcare leadership experience.
  • Innovative drive to achieve business goals and objectives.
  • Collaborative abilities to build partnerships with other health-delivery systems to achieve affordable outcomes.
  • Strategic approach.
  • Telehealth policy-making skill.

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CTO role, expand their horizons in an existing CTO role, or even rise beyond the CTO role:

  • The riches may be in the niches. Specialization provides additional growth into such areas as telepediatrics, teleradiology, telepathology, telecardiology, teledermatology, telepsychiatry, and many more. Provider-to-Provider telehealth is another niche area.
  • You may not need a healthcare background. Citing high demand for healthcare technology talent, healthcare recruiter Bonnie Siegel, notes that IT professionals from other industries are sometimes sought for executive telehealth roles; however, relaxation of the MD requirement is more common for Chief Healthcare Technology Officers than for Chief Telehealth Officers.
  • Growth provides opportunities for women. MedCity News’s Christina Hernandez Sherwood cites Julie Hall-Barrow, vice president for virtual health and innovation at Children’s Health, Dallas, for her observation that “the number and variety of jobs in telehealth have created new opportunities for women across business, clinical, and technology sectors. The value of women in health IT leadership roles is evident, resulting in increased numbers of women holding senior leadership roles in telehealth, health systems, and health IT in general.”
  • Expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly important asset. Recognition of AI and machine learning as valuable tools in telehealth is on the rise. Those well-versed in these technologies will likely be seen as attractive CTO candidates.

 CTO Trends to Watch

  • More and more physicians are adopting telehealth. Physician adoption of telehealth increased 340 percent from 2015 to 2018, notes American Well’s Telehealth Index 2019 Physician-Survey, with almost 70 percent of respondents who hadn’t yet adopted indicating a willingness to try telehealth. Physician adoption is yet another growth indicator that bodes well for prospective CTOs.
  • Telehealth training is expanding. Medical and nursing schools are integrating telehealth into their programs, notes Todd Czartoski, MD, Chief Executive Telehealth, Providence St. Joseph Health. Aspiring CTOs will have greater opportunities to build early-career expertise.
  • Growth is also expected on the patient side. In a survey cited on the blog of General Devices, 74 percent of respondents said they are willing to use telehealth services, while 76 percent of patients surveyed said they find access to healthcare more important than in-person appointments. It is not unreasonable to speculate that these numbers will skyrocket as more and more patients have no choice but to use telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ideally have a positive experience.

Outlook for the Chief Creative Officer Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up

The watchword for the Chief Creative Officer role is “change.” Headlines of articles about the role often refer to “evolution,” a “murky future,” and a function redefined by digital transformation. Some practitioners note the role has become more collaborative and that it veers more toward the marketing function than in the past.

The title of Chief Creative Officer (CCO) is frequently applied in large advertising and other creative agencies, but it also applies to an executive role in companies such as GE, Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Microsoft, and Chobani. The role evolved as creative content went online and became more pervasive and important, motivating large brands to bring the creative function in house. In essence, Chief Creative Officers oversee an organization’s creative output, which may include marketing, media, and branding.

Because the Chief Creative Officer’s purview often includes responsibility for the overall look and feel of creative content, the role can overlap that of Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Communication Officer, or Chief Branding Officer. Forbes journalist Jason Compton calls the role, “leadership at the intersection of ideas and commerce,” suggesting that blending creativity and commerce can be dicey.

Gain insight into the Chief Creative Director role by reading this Lifehacker “How I Work” feature about Squarespace Chief Creative Officer David Lee and his shortcuts, workspaces, and routines, and an interview with Anjelika Temple, Chief Creative Officer at Brit+Co, who discusses such topics as the skills top creative leaders need to succeed and Temple’s biggest creative challenge to date.

Key Competencies for the CCO Role

Writing on the AllBusiness site, writes Courtney Feider suggests the CCO leads change management, “setting up strategic and thoughtful creative disruption, and implementing it with a process.”

In your career-marketing communications, showcase these additional Chief Creative Officer competencies you possess:

  • Creativity, innovativeness, and the ability to imbue an organization-wide culture of creativity
  • Abroad background combined with the ability to manage a team of specialists
  • Collaborative across silos
  • Ability to inspire new business strategy
  • Solid grasp of analytics
  • Quick adaptability
  • Leadership skills, including the ability to lead change management.
  • Drive to cultivate creativity throughout the organization

See also Top 50 Chief Creative Officer Skills.

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the Chief Creative Officer role, expand their horizons in an existing CCO role, or even rise beyond the Chief Creative Officer role:

  • Don’t sweat educational requirements. The role of Chief Creative Director tends to have lighter educational requirements than other top-executive roles. While some CCOs hold a Master of Fine Arts degree, others in the role have only an associate’s degree. If you are interested in the CCO role, you may be heartened to know that people in this role come from diverse backgrounds, and no single list of hard-and-fast qualifications exists. You may be able to break in based on reputation, stellar past accomplishments, and your ability to show how your creativity will enable you to deliver results to your next employer.
  • Be sure the total organization is behind you. That advice comes from Jay Haines, founder of a creative recruiting firm, as quoted by blogger Adrianne Pasquarelli. Haines also suggested “CCOs need the support of management and a sponsor in the executive office to truly succeed.”
  • Know how to blend strategic business objectives, marketplace attraction, staff engagement, and company innovation to create results. “Using branding know-how and the history of what resonates with customers,” writes Feider,“ a CCO can uncover detailed audience segmentation by individual marketplace connection and help match up the differentiators, artistry, and assets of the product to the audience’s need.” Feider asserts that the Chief Creative Officer role comprises leadership advising, strategizing, and igniting creative thought, suggesting that organizations not using their CCOs in this way are missing out.
  • Use the role to generate creativity throughout the organization. Fieder cites Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, whose client received 55 percent more new ideas after Epstein trained the staff in core creative competencies. That level of innovation is bound to impress the C-Suite.