Over the last decade or so I’ve seen my career soar. I took a step back the other day and realized my income has increased by 35% in the last 4 years. Not too shabby. I’ve enjoyed my success but I wanted to post a cautionary tale, the view from the top as an executive may not be worth it.
I have turned down Executive Roles
My current job is an individual contributor role, basically the top level you can achieve in my company. I however have been a manager before as well. I’ve had roles in many different organizations in ways that some would consider multiple careers. And yes, I’ve been offered executive roles to leave my current company in the past. And yet, I turn them down.
The sirens call of an executive position
Let’s be honest, it’s alluring. Be an executive. Make a huge amount of the decisions that shape the company rather than just heavily influence them as I do. Not to mention the massive boost in pay. I make very good money where I am at. I make a decent stock bonus as well. But to be honest my incentive bonuses don’t hold a candle to an executive position. All positives for making the leap. So why haven’t I?
Downsides of an Executive Position
The reasons for me are three fold. You see my current role has me sitting on executive staff meetings and working hand in hand with them. So the life and world of an executive, at least at my current company, is not a mystery to me. Well the job comes with two major down sides.
- The first one is the control to make decisions is an illusion. I might be able to heavily influence decisions while an executive can make a few decisions, but the key word is a few. There is always someone else higher in charge. A President to a VP, a CEO to a President, a board to a CEO, and even a share holder to a board. The reality is the big decisions aren’t made in the vacuum of an individual. So no matter how high you climb you won’t be truly making the decisions.
This also means the politics get worse the higher you climb. The higher you are the less time you spend doing and the more time you spend trying to garner support for your ideas. I’ve spent a career trying to get support for changes and I can tell you it’s extremely stressful. But in my case it’s just one tiny sliver of my job. I also design, test, train, cheerlead, and any other number of things. I can’t imagine what life would be like if the only thing I did was attempt to change people’s minds.
- The hours are brutal. It seems a cliché it is so common, the executive that works themselves to death. I’m here to tell you it’s true. Almost every successful executive I’ve met is a workaholic. I’ve witnessed at least 2 have a breakdown from the number of hours they work. Beside the 12 hour days many of them in large corporations travel non stop. While I travel a lot for work, I have nothing on some of my executives. I travel somewhere around 8-12 weeks a year depending on the year. Most of the executives I know approach 50 percent of the time. Work is all most of them have. That life frankly is not for me as I like knowing my kids, traveling for fun, etc.
- My company is a serial acquirer of other businesses. There is one thing I’ve noticed about almost every acquisition. The acquires executives are the first to be shown the door. At the level of executive frankly it’s very tough to move to another executive role outside your industry. As such in a way an executive role ties your well being to your companies even closer. Your job stability in effect decreases when you become an executive unless the acquisition will make you financially.
Deciding to Stay Where We Are
Honestly as I pause and reflect on what I’ve written so far in this post I come to a quick conclusion about an executive role. It’s got all the downsides of being self employed: long hours, stress, and increased risk of job loss. Even with the fantastic pay it’s missing one of the major positives of self employment, the income potential is not limitless as you are still working at someone else’s beck and call. So in a way if you can be successful at it starting your business is probably a better deal than being an executive.
So if I truly ever decide I want to move up from here, at least for me it’s probably a better move to start my own business. Read more about the process of starting your own business here.
What do you think? Any executives out there with a different perspective?