Mark Porath LLB, ATCL - Managing Director, PORATH EXECUTIVE SEARCH

It’s a stunning but repetitive revelation during almost 27 years as a Headhunter:

Senior executives who have succeeded attaining C-suite status very rarely apply strategic analysis and planning to themselves and their own careers. And yet they have successfully analysed, strategized and implemented business or company strategy plans and actions over many years.

Why has this intellectual and motivational gap occurred? The simple answer is that as senior executives we commit 24 X 7 to driving the success of our business or operational challenges against objectives set by others – whether that be our Managing Director, Chair, or Board of Directors.

Consequently, we do not – as individuals – necessarily have - or find the quality time to focus on our personal career priorities. In other words, we are subsumed by the requirements of “the Business” – be that strategic, operational, managerial and governance demands.

Applying relevant and pertinent disciplines – and application – to our own career is in many situations not contemplated because of an overwhelming feeling of personal guilt. As a senior executive we come a distant second in a race which usually dominates life outside our focus on family. Indeed, many businesses and corporates ignore the developmental interests of their C-suite executives – preferring that our focus be 150% on the company. And, in being compliant we support this mantra.

I know this to be true from personal experience. Privileged as I was to be a very young Group General Manager of a listed company in the Financial Services sector, the intensity of absorbing knowledge relating to existing businesses, new business challenges, operational activity and P&L management and reporting requirements – made me oblivious to opportunities to create a specific platform for personal development.

Yes, I had initially obtained a Law degree and other qualifications, but my assumption at the time was that my performance would provide a logical path for career progression. What I didn’t factor into this equation were the overwhelming priorities of the major shareholders in the company who determined a path that entirely satisfied their objectives. REALITY!

Did I learn from this early experience? No – and Yes.

No – because I was too corporately immature at the time to recognise what my next steps should, could, or might be.

Yes – because the Stock Market Crash of 1987 drove home to me the message that without knowing how to analyse my skills and career experience to date I was literally at the mercy of the market – and, at that time, the market told me I was irrelevant. REALITY!


Why do smart, ‘experienced’, driven and successful senior executives (C-suite, Group General Managers, Heads of..) 9 times out of 10, say to me “Mark, I’ve been successful, I have money after all these years, but I have no idea how I got to this position on the corporate ladder, and I have absolutely no idea what to do next or where to go.”

My response has been to suggest that they look in the mirror to realise that you have to ‘do unto yourself what you’ve been doing to your business for the past 3, 5 - even 10 years – BUT that’s what YOU HAVE TO DO’.”

The silence that usually follows is quickly replaced by head nodding and begrudging acknowledgement “Oh, I see what you mean. Gosh, I haven’t done that for a hell of a long time. Been way too busy. Actually, it’s a scary proposition!“

REALITY. Yes, it is scary for all of us. To confront ourselves means we have to recognise our personal, family and business priorities. No University degree exists to underpin this challenge! It takes personal courage to embark on this process, and also a commitment to attack an entirely personal set of operational parameters and priorities.

But unless courage of conviction prevails then there is every likelihood that the inherent journey to take control of your career – and by extension and implication – your life and future – will be deferred, ignored and ultimately repressed. You won’t achieve what you might be capable of because “you don’t know what you don’t know”. REALITY.

There are short, medium and long term plans which for you are just as important – even more important – than those that you design for your business. Yes, it’s time to confront yourself.

And, what a platform you’ve already created!

Go for it! It’s a positive push by YOU for YOU.



Gen EA1 = Generation of Executive Achievers

Gen EA2 = Generation of Executive Aspirants

Gen EA3 = Generation of Executive Attitudinals

Gen EA1: Senior executives within Corporates or Organisations who have track records of achievement, and who are determined to push forward from their established platforms of success to embrace broader strategic, operational, leadership and even governance challenges.

Gen EA2: Executives who aspire to join the C-suite who have track records of achievement at operational or functional levels; perhaps embracing corporate leadership challenges, and who are determined to commit and achieve at higher levels of executive leadership.

Gen EA3: Non-executives who aspire to embrace greater operational and managerial challenges and responsibilities, and who demonstrate functional expertise and a growing appreciation of corporate and leadership requirements.

While not everyone will necessarily fit exactly into one of the three Gen EA categories outlined above, nevertheless, there broadly exist some key indicators in respect of each, namely:

Gen EA1: High level of intelligence. Application of intelligence against defined objectives reflecting functional expertise. Appreciation of macro and micro strategies. Collaborative leadership and ‘political’ nous, and strong achievement determination and drivers.

Gen EA2: High level of intelligence. Demonstrable application of energy and functional expertise against defined objectives. High level of personal drive to lead, achieve and manage. Self-belief.

Gen EA3: Emerging evidence of high level of intelligence. Ability to interpret functional requirements. Acceptance of managerial guidance. Overt commitment to achieve targets and objectives. ‘Can do’ attitude.

Identifying which Gen EA category you fit is the first step on a path to self-awareness and simply provides a platform for undertaking the strategy development process for yourself.

A proven independent professional – ideally with a mix of commercial and leadership experience – who understands the environment in which you have developed your career, and is able to accurately listen and provide relevant and objective advice and encouragement - will assist your quest to move forward.