Skip to Content

What it means to join the c-suite

Colette LaForce, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at AMDColette LaForce, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at AMD
Colette LaForce, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at AMDBARTON WILDER

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Colette LaForce, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at AMD.

I landed my first C-suite role in a Fortune 500 company when I was 39 years old, and learned more lessons then I can count along the way. But there are two that particularly stand out when I think back to the early months of that job: first, that the position I was hired to do was just one small facet of a bigger leadership role I was actually expected to take on; and second, that my peers (not just the CEO or the board of directors) were actually the most important stakeholders in my success.

Whether you’re hired to be the CFO, COO or CMO, the reality is that being in the C-suite means taking on a heck of a lot more than what the job description states. You have to be ready to jump out of your old skin and into a whole new world of leadership — where what you did yesterday is far less important to your stakeholders than what you’ll do tomorrow.

Sure, your ‘day job’ will require you to lead a large global team of professionals who are relying on your expertise in a specific area. However, the bigger—and much more interesting—job is that you’re now part of a small, (hopefully) tight-knit team of leaders who are collectively chartered with the financial, cultural and long-term health of the company. That’s not just the CEO’s job; it’s very much yours now, too.

Ideally that C-suite team is always looking out for each other, partnering openly (and sometimes quietly behind the scenes) to drive success as a single unit. It’s easy to get comfortable ‘managing up’ to the boss and ‘managing down’ to your team, but the more you take on as a leader the more important your peers around the table become. The best C-suites are like winning sports teams—each player has a specific strength, but when they come together and perform in the service of stakeholders, that’s when the real magic happens.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Why ‘knowing it all’ won’t help you at work by Adena Friedman, President of Nasdaq.

Why you should be more friendly at work by Mary Civiello, President of Civiello CSommunications Group.

4 reasons to ditch the ‘corporate mold’ by Kathy Collins, Chief Marketing Officer, H&R Block.

10 tips for survival when you’re the new boss by Debby Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer at Citi.

Why every new leader should take Lupita Nyong’o’s advice Gloria Larson, President of Bentley University.

Why I’m proud to be gay — at home and at work by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.

Why great doers don’t make great leaders by Liz Wiseman, President of Wiseman Group.

3 things you can learn from your worst boss by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

One CEO’s cheat sheet to the top by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

3 ways to think like a leader by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

What the best bosses can learn from mountain ski guides by Susan Coelius Keplinger, President and COO of Triggit.

The one quality all leaders must have by China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work Institute.

3 lessons every new leader should know by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Barbara Bush: 4 tips for aspiring leaders by Barbara Bush, co-founder of Global Health Corps.