The Route to the Top: Climbing on the Decisions of Others
In the first chapter of this book, we described the process of reaching the top of a modern business organization as analogous to climbing a constantly changing volcano. At this point we would like to modify and further elaborate on that picture. A volcano is a physical phenomenon of nature and if two climbers are equally skillful, persistent, and lucky, they may both reach the top at the same time. The volcano does not care who they are, where they came from, nor what they did while on the climb. A business organization, on the other hand, is a creation of men which traditionally has only allowed one person at a time to occupy its highest point. Success in climbing this type of pinnacle depends not only on skill, persistence, and luck, but also on the decisions of those who have already climbed higher than you. It is as if reaching the next highest level requires that someone above lower a rope; and those above must choose one person at a time who may attempt to climb that rope.
As a corporate climber, you must realize that upward mobility in a hierarchical business organization depends on the decisions of those above you. They are attempting to base their decisions on your ability to perform at the higher level. However, since you have never been at that level before, they are forced to make a prediction. As we have shown throughout this book, there are certain signals that promotion decision makers look at. These signals are assumed to be predictors of the type of manager that you will be. In fact, they are largely a reflection of your background, particularly your career history. Some signals are more important at particular stages of the career and some are more important in certain situations.
In this chapter, we will first review and summarize the signals that have been identified in the previous chapters and then discuss some of the additional considerations that surround the choice of the top exec-