Your next CEO could come from an unlikely place

The most similar C-suite executive to the CEO in terms of leadership style, thinking style and emotional competency is chief human resources officer, with the exception of the COO, whose duties overlap with the CEO, according to information from two researchers published in Harvard Business Review.

 The study showed both CEOs and CHROs to be the most social, participative, empathetic and energetic leaders in the C-suite. CHROs were also the most action-focused executives by far, according to the study, which analyzed more than 10 years of assessments of top-performing executives.

"This role is gaining importance like never before," said Ellie Filler, researcher and senior client partner at the executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry. "It's moved away from a support or administrative function to become much more of a game changer and the person who enables the business strategy."

 In fact, CHROs are the highest-paid executives after CEOs and COOs. They make an average base salary of $574,000, which is one-third more than CMOs, who bring home the smallest paycheck from the C-suite. This is because talented CHROs are difficult to find, according to the project's other researcher, University of Michigan professor and management consultant Dave Ulrich, PhD.

Still, few CHROs make the leap to CEO even though the position requires more than HR experience, according to the report. Ms. Filler and Dr. Ulrich believe CHROs who have career experience beyond HR, including managerial experience and profit and loss responsibility, are much more likely to become CEOs.

Nonetheless, the importance of people skills was underscored by several CEOs in the report. Talent strategy, team dynamics and culture are integral to the success of a company, Ms. Filler told Harvard Business Review.

 Plus, promoting more CHROs could diversify the corner office — a higher percentage of women hold CHRO positions than any other executive position, according to the report.

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