9 Essential Competencies for Successful C-Level Executives

A list of core competencies the CIO Executive Council uses to evaluate and develop C-level talent.

In 30 years of assessing executive talent, recruitment firm Egon Zehnder International determined that the competencies listed below are core to c- level executive success. The CIO Executive Council has adapted these competencies for assessment and development programs to aid CIOs and their senior staff in achieving their full potential as strategic enterprise leaders.


Strategic Orientation is about the ability to think long- term and beyond one’s own area. It involves three key dimensions: business awareness, critical analysis and integration of information, and the ability to develop an action- oriented plan.

Basic - knows the objectives for one’s own area.

Moderate – has greater understanding of the organization’s strategic context and the ability to align with and contribute to it.

Advanced - generates a strategic plan that integrates numerous business issues, functions and resources for effective action.


Customer Impact is about serving and building value- added relationships with customers or clients, be they internal or external.

Basic - willing to help reactively and seeks out information to understand the client better.

Moderate - understands the customers’ needs and uses this knowledge to anticipate future customer needs.

Advanced - proactively shapes the customer value proposition including but also well beyond the transactional relationship.

Most Advanced - has a high- impact relationship with one or more key external clients, with the ability to envision and advocate a mutually beneficial long- term partnership between one’s own organization and the client organization.


Market Knowledge is about understanding the market in which a business operates. This business context can include the competition, the suppliers, the customer base and the regulatory environment.

Basic - knows the basics of the market and business context.

Moderate - knows the market well enough to spot trends.

Advanced – anticipates, capitalizes on and possibly drives changes in the market.


Commercial Orientation is about identifying and moving towards business opportunities, seizing chances to increase profit and revenue.

Basic - knows how money is made and values doing so.

Moderate - prioritizes among and taps into available opportunities in one’s own area.

Advanced - invents new ways to increase commerce.


Results Orientation is about being focused on improvement of business results.

Basic - wants to do things well or better.

Moderate - meets and beats goals.

Advanced - introduces improvements, allowing higher goals to be set.

Most Advanced - transforms a business for significantly improved results.

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