How a BA in organizational leadership can help prepare you for a path to the C-suite

April 23, 2019 · 7 min read · By ASU Online

Do you aspire to become a chief officer, earning a management role in a company’s C-suite? Attaining this seniority within an organization’s leadership often requires extensive experience and knowledge. Prior supervisory positions and relevant education can help you build the competencies necessary for success in roles such as chief executive officer, chief operations officer, chief financial officer and more.


Competencies for executive leadership

Preparing yourself for an executive-level role is equally about managing and leading, and developing these competencies starts with your education.

Developing applicable skills, such as solving problems, using emerging technologies, communicating goals and strategies, and improving operational efficiency — all to help an organization function more effectively — can encourage direct reports and peers to choose to follow you as a leader.

While you’ll need advanced training to gain expertise in your specific field of interest, such as finance, technology or marketing, a bachelor’s degree can begin to ready you for the C-suite by shaping your ability to solve problems, listen and communicate well, and stay organized and focused — all relevant skills for executive leaders.

In particular, a bachelor’s in organizational leadership aims to foster these competencies as well as provide exposure to topics such as resource allocation and capital investment management. By preparing you with the competencies to excel and lead in a variety of positions, such a degree can prove beneficial as you advance towards the C-suite.


Preparing to lead from the start

An organizational leadership degree can help you develop the business acumen required for management roles in for-profit, nonprofit, public or private organizations. Upon graduation, you can apply your knowledge to areas such as change management, strategy implementation and more because you’ve worked to develop expertise that applies in many settings. Proficiencies often covered in an organizational leadership program center around communication, resource management, assessment and strategy.

“Successful future senior executives will have a solid track record for demonstrating the skills, knowledge and personal characteristics needed to lead effectively,” says Ellsworth, who cites examples such as having a clear vision toward goals, where and how you fit into an organization, and how you position yourself for future opportunities.

While job requirements for top executives can vary by industry and company, candidates typically must have a strong educational background alongside relevant and considerable work experience. With an organizational leadership program that takes a pragmatic approach to learning, students can study the competencies needed to be effective leaders and apply that knowledge throughout their careers.


Possessing the skills of a strong leader

Listening carefully and strategically solving problems are two essential competencies for a leader to possess. While these abilities can prove integral at the executive level, it’s also important to show you’ve built a variety of proficiencies throughout your education and professional experience. An organizational leadership program often offers courses that help professionals develop these competencies. Covering subjects like behavioral dynamics in organizations, resource allocation, diversity and more, the coursework can give you the holistic, strategic insight needed for a future C-suite career.

Established expertise can help you stand out when pursuing C-suite positions. You should focus on demonstrating strengths in the following areas:

Preparing for management

Before reaching the C-suite, you must work and gain relevant knowledge in other supervisor, management and director positions to enhance your professional experience and hone your abilities as a leader. Depending on your interests, some possibilities you can pursue with a bachelor’s degree and other relevant education and work experience include:

  • General or operations manager: Responsible for planning, directing or coordinating an organization’s operations, this role usually focuses on crafting policies, managing daily operations and strategizing the use of resources.

  • Human resources manager: Focusing on the administrative functions in an organization, HR managers typically oversee activities like staff recruitment, the interview process for potential employees and hiring. They often work closely with top executives on strategic planning and help bridge gaps between management and employees.

  • Sales manager: This position maintains all sales representatives’ productivity. Sales managers achieve this by setting sales goals, analyzing existing market and personnel performance, and developing training programs to keep the sales team up to date with best practices and relevant technologies.

  • Marketing manager: The assortment of tasks usually affiliated with this role center around driving an organization’s business through marketing policies and programs. Marketing managers examine the market to see where their company fits in the competitive landscape, conduct research around the customer base and help create pricing strategies to maximize profits. They may even initiate the development of new products or services based on industry trends.

Common factors across these careers include an emphasis on critical thinking and strategy. An organizational leadership bachelor’s program can help you develop such competencies to succeed in these types of managerial roles, enhancing your professional qualifications to one day move into chief officer positions.

Enhance your potential for a C-suite role with an organizational leadership degree from ASU Online

The ASU Online Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership can provide you with in-depth knowledge of organizational theories and practical applications for the business world. This degree can help you understand leadership qualities and how to support innovation as it utilizes an experiential approach to learning, educating you on how to write proposals and reports, make ethical decisions and effectively communicate.

Offered through the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, the bachelor’s in organizational leadership begins with courses in upper-level humanities, art and design, and social-behavioral sciences to establish a broad foundation in areas that can indirectly influence businesses. Core courses go on to address specific aspects company executives may face. These can range from organizational topics, such as diversity, to leadership theories, including company innovation and change, to assessment and decision-making skills, like resource allocation.

With many opportunities for electives, the program can also cater to specific interests tied to the field you’re currently in or considering for the future including marketing, finance, or business. The program culminates with a chance to apply what you’ve learned throughout your courses in a capstone project, showcasing what you accomplished and representing your preparation for a successful career.

An immersive and widely applicable educational background such as this can prepare you to become an effective leader with the skills and qualifications to one day help you earn a role in the C-suite.


How to Get on the Shortlist for the C-Suite by Harvard Business Review
Occupational Employment Statistics: Chief Executives by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Top Executives by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Employment Statistics: General and Operations Managers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Human Resources Managers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Sales Managers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Seven Skills You Need to Thrive in the C-Suite by Harvard Business Review
The Evolving Executive: Five Skills All Modern CEOs Should Have by Forbes
20 Traits Successful Senior Executives Share by The Balance Careers
ASU Online – Online Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership

Leadership is both a science and an art. Leadership requires vision, courage, character, and a deep well of knowledge and skills.

Kevin Ellsworth

Principal lecturer and faculty head of leadership and interdisciplinary studies
Ability to motivate and inspire.

This characteristic helps leaders gain support among their colleagues and subordinates regarding their vision. As the business pivots for positive and negative reasons, C-suite managers must reassure employees, promoting continued buy-in and helping to mold the behaviors of the entire organization.

Knowledge of new technology.

Nearly every aspect of modern business includes technology. C-suite professionals must understand the current innovations in their departments and emerging tools that can improve operations.

Strategic thinking.

Executives make decisions that affect the entire business. They need to take evidenced-based and intent-driven approaches to goal setting and processes. This competency helps them address needs within their organizations while considering how their plans integrate with the company’s long-term vision.


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