A Look at the Successful Career Paths of Italian CEOs
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A Look at the Successful Career Paths of Italian CEOs

THE TYPICAL ITALIAN CEO IS A 50 YEAR OLD MALE WITH A DEGREE IN ECONOMICS OR ENGINEERING. INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE IS A MUST HAVE, ACCORDING TO SDA BOCCONI SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT RESEARCH

Career development in today’s rapidly shifting workplace is more complicated than it used to be.  A look at the career DNA of Italy’s top managers can help choose the right growth path. A team of Bocconi researchers is carrying out a three-part research project mapping the careers of Italy’s CEOs, top managers and female leaders in terms of education, job hopping, international experience and other factors.
 
The first part of the study was published in Economia & Management under the title “How To Get To The Top. The Profile of Italian CEOs,” and it looks at 540 CEOs at top, large, medium and small firms, using LinkedIn and company websites for career data on age, university education, post-graduate work, and career path.
 
It found that typical CEO of an Italian company is a 50-year-old male with a degree in economics, management or engineering (73% of total degrees), from a university in Northern Italy (with Bocconi leading the way at 12%) with a stable career in a single industry sector and most likely promoted internally. In terms of average age (49) and low percentage of female CEOs (6%), Italy is in line with international standards.
 
Only 27% of the CEOs surveyed had done an MBA, and very few had PhDs. The career path was much shorter in smaller companies, taking 14 years to reach the corner office, compared to 21 years for medium, large and top companies. International experience is a must-have rather than an accelerator (64% for top companies).
 
“We found that the higher the position and the bigger the organization, the less risk is taken by the organization when they bring someone in for the top position. The common trend is in fact to hire someone that was either covering a CEO position in their previous role, or operating in the same industry or also internally promoted,” said Laura Baruffaldi, Lecturer in Leadership, Organization & HR at SDA Bocconi School of Management.
 
The second phase of the study looked at top management positions and was completed in 2019, repeating the same kind of analysis as for CEOs. For top management, women made up 11%, “which is still very low,” noted Baruffaldi.  In the category of top management, experience in consulting and having an MBA accelerated a career by two years and was a key aspect, she said.
 
The third phase looks at women in top management, and will be presented by mid-March. The other authors are Duccio Alberti, SDA Bocconi Fellow and Executive Coach; Simone Panigati, former Community Manager at SDA Bocconi School of Management, and Isabella Pinucci, head of Executive Career Development at SDA Bocconi School of Management.

by Jennifer Clark
Bocconi Knowledge newsletter

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