According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), common wisdom says that CEOs attend elite MBA programs, land high-powered jobs right out of school at prestigious firms, and climb the ladder straight to the top while carefully avoiding risky moves.
However, HBR conducted a 10-year study in which they assembled a dataset of more than 17,000 C-suite executive assessments to analyze who gets to the top and how. They discovered a striking finding: sprinters—those who rise quickly—accelerate to the top by making bold, at times risky, career moves.
The study found that a few types of career "catapults" were common among the sprinters, and 97% undertook at least one of these experiences. First, over 60% of sprinters have taken a smaller role early in their career. Then, more than one-third catapulted to the top by making “the big leap,” often in the first decade of their careers.
At the end of the day, using these career catapults may not require an elite MBA or a select mix of inborn traits. What it does require is a willingness to make lateral, unconventional, and even risky career moves.