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The Unlikely Ascent from Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff

In every profession, certain roles emerge as the epitome of success. Within the realm of Administrative Professionals, the Chief of Staff position has recently claimed its position atop the summit, accompanied by a surge in available training programs promising to guide individuals on this remarkable journey. However, the realistic prospects of attaining the coveted Chief of Staff role warrant closer examination.


While recognizing that the ascent to the Chief of Staff position transcends mere ability, the scarcity of such opportunities introduces an additional layer of complexity. Statistical insights reveal a daunting reality, indicating that less than 0.1% of administrative professionals ever ascend to the distinguished heights of Chief of Staff. The competition is intense, and the prerequisites for this role often extend beyond exceptional administrative skills, pitting contenders against adversaries from diverse backgrounds.


Furthermore, in many organizations where the Chief of Staff role exists, it is predominantly perceived as a stepping stone for future senior leaders rather than the ultimate reward for Administrative Professionals. It functions as a rotational role, strategically offering valuable experience to high-performing individuals identified as the next generation of corporate leaders. This perspective underscores the dynamic nature of the Chief of Staff position, emphasizing its role in grooming and preparing individuals for broader leadership responsibilities within the organization.


Traditionally associated with governmental offices, the Chief of Staff role has garnered a reputation as one of the rarest and most coveted positions in organizational structures. The Chief of Staff is an enigmatic figure, operating at the right hand of a high-ranking executive, whether in government or the private sector. This role demands a strategic mindset, impeccable organizational skills, and the ability to navigate the complex landscape of executive decision-making, acting as a gatekeeper, advisor, and confidant to heads of state. This origin has contributed to the perception that this role is shrouded in exclusivity and is, therefore, rarely within reach for most corporate professionals.



However, this shouldn't discourage ambitious executive assistants from aiming for career growth. Rather than fixating on the seemingly insurmountable task of reaching the Chief of Staff position, these professionals can strategically position themselves for success by adopting some of the responsibilities and skills associated with the role.


Senior executive assistants, in particular, can enhance their value by becoming more involved in strategic planning, managing key relationships, and overseeing critical projects. Demonstrating a keen understanding of the organization's goals and contributing to the development and execution of high-level strategies can elevate an executive assistant's standing within the company.


Furthermore, cultivating leadership skills, honing a deep understanding of the organization's operations, and fostering cross-functional collaboration can set a senior executive assistant on a trajectory toward becoming an indispensable asset.


In reality the ascent from executive assistant to Chief of Staff is an elusive dream for the vast majority of Administrative Professionals, but it shouldn’t diminish your learning journey. By embracing some of the responsibilities traditionally associated with the Chief of Staff role, executive assistants can not only secure their current roles but also position themselves as key players in the organizational landscape, contributing to their own success and the success of the executives they support.


About the Author:


Richard Arnott, BA, FInatAM, FIToL, is the Director of BMTG (UK) Ltd, and the author and lead presenter of the groundbreaking, globally recognised Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program. Richard also sits on the editorial board of Lucy Brazier OBE’s Executive Support Magazine

Please connect with Richard on Linkedin and please also join our LinkedIn group, "The Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA®," to connect with a community of forward-thinking executive assistants committed to career growth and development

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