Despite the huge impact executives can have on their organizations, failure rates remain high. Prescriptions for what to do continue to fall short. So we wondered: If we closely studied the executives who succeed in top jobs once appointed, could we identify distinguishing features that set them apart and defined their success?

They know the whole business

Exceptional executives have deep knowledge of how the pieces of the organization fit together to create value and deliver results. Many leaders arrive into the C-suite having grown up in functions like Marketing or Finance and lean too heavily on instincts and cognitive biases shaped by their ascent within those disciplines. Leaders who ran one business of a multi-business enterprise often favor that business within the larger portfolio. Exceptional executives defy such predispositions in order to integrate the entire organization into a well synchronized machine. Executives develop breadth by broadening their exposure to the full organization and taking assignments across disciplines.