This chapter will describe two related studies. One represents an extension of the research from Chapter 3 up to the general management level. The other is an extension of research on the careers of top executives-- down to the general management and functional vice president level. As we will show later in the book, achieving this level is a major step on the path to the top.
In the previous chapter we reported on three career history variables that were related to promotion chances early in the career. These were early upward mobility, initial functional area, and breadth of functional experience. The longitudinal studies that focused on these factors only examined the first 12 or 13 years of an individual's career. We were interested in whether the influence of these "signals" extended beyond that early period. Also, although we described these as signals used by promotion decision makers in lieu of better information on a candidate's ability, we did not actually observe the decision process. It was merely inferred from statistical relationships. For these reasons, we designed a study in which top executives were asked to evaluate fictitious candidates for a general management position. The candidates' career histories varied along these three dimensions.
General management has been defined as ". . . positions with some multifunctional responsibility for a business (or businesses)" ( Kotter, 1982, p. 2). Achieving a general management position is an important mid-career achievement in many executives' careers. It has been described as a critical threshold to senior management ( Sorcher, 1985).
John Kotter ( 1988) has made the case that in today's complex business environment, we need leaders who possess not only motivation, ability, and integrity but also three other characteristics that are primarily developed as the result of career experiences. These are relatively broad