Crack the C-Suite Code: A book review by Bob Morris

Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top
Cassandra Frangos
Wharton Digital Press (March 6, 2018)

Personal growth and professional development are all about the journey, not the destination.

Obviously, Cassandra Frangos is fond of metaphors. She employs some of the nomenclature from cryptology (e.g. “cracking code” to reach “the C-suite”) to explain how to achieve a high level of success. She has identified four different paths, and devotes a separate chapter to each:

o The Tenured Executive: The most traditional path but less appealing to those with impatient ambition
o The Free Agent: Recruited from “outside” to strengthen an organization’s bench
o The Leapfrog Leader: Less tenure than others but better qualified for a VUCA marketplace
o The Founder: Actually, an entrepreneur who either launches a company or joins a recent start-up

It is important to keep in mind that personal growth and professional development are all about the journey, not the destination. Each path requires different knowledge, experience, skills, and temperament. As is also true of almost every other career decision, those who pursue a senior-level position must know who they are and (especially) who they aren’t. As I worked my way through each of the four chapters devoted to the paths, I tried to formulate what the defining characteristics of each would be.

For example, the Tenured Executive would know where the given organization has been and where it’s at now. She would also be well-established and settled in, someone who knows and known by most of the other key people. That was true of Jack Welch when Reginald Jones selected him as his successor as CEO. Jones also told Welch to “blow up GE.”

The key consideration when adding someone to the C-suite is fit. The choice of Welch at GE seems an anomaly but in fact makes sense for several reasons, including his credibility as a known quantity but also, as Jones realized, his contempt for what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes (in Leading Change) as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

So, my take on Cassandra Frangos’ book is that it will be of greatest value to those who aspire to reach a C-suite or its equivalent, and, to those who select that addition from within or behind the given organization. The abundance of information, insights, and counsel she provides can help those in each group make the most appropriate decision, hence the correct one.


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