Pathways Into the Chief of Staff Role
There is no standard career path for chiefs of staff, either within organisations or sectors. Survey results revealed a wide range of previous roles at different perceived levels of seniority.


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How are chiefs of staff recruited?

Promoted internally
Hired externally
Internal promotions often come about because of direct talent-spotting or an existing good relationship with the principal. The chief of staff in these situations effectively creates the role themselves according to the needs of the organisation and, more importantly, the principal. An external hire is more likely to involve a formal recruitment process.
Chiefs of staff generally have a high level of education, with a large proportion having Master’s degrees and just under 10 per cent having been awarded doctorates.

level of education by sector

In most cases, chiefs of staff in Government and Higher Education have at least a Bachelor’s degree, while 95 per cent of respondents without a degree work in the private sector.
Nearly half of all respondents currently work in a hybrid fashion, dividing their time between in-person and remote working. Only a fifth are fully remote, with just under 30 per cent fully office-based. We will continue to track changes in these working arrangements in future surveys.

Working arrangements

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A series of questions were designed to tease out the perceived validity of being a career chief of staff. Until recently, probably because of its prevalence in military and political contexts, it has been seen as a transitional role: one that lasts for a few years at most before the person moves upwards into another leadership role, most commonly in operations or strategy. But we were interested in whether respondents could see themselves continuing in this important and interesting – but typically understated – role.
The vast majority of respondents were confident that it would be possible for them to have a career as chief of staff. In fact, only three said categorically that it would not be possible.
Whether they wanted to or not was another matter. 35 per cent said they did, but 17 per cent did not.

Do you want to be a career chief of staff?