Six Modalities of a Contemporary Chief of Staff
The chief of staff is often considered a generalist, able to turn their hand to whatever job is needed and act as the ‘glue’ uniting senior teams made up of specialists.
Their roles encompass a wide array of responsibilities, including managing staff (directly or indirectly), overseeing day-to-day operations, supporting executive leadership, fostering organisational culture, engaging in strategic planning, directing programs or projects, and maintaining effective internal and external communication. However, not every chief of staff will deploy all of these skill sets simultaneously or to the same degree. To assist chiefs of staff in gaining clarity on their roles and formulating professional development plans, we queried respondents about how they allocate their time.
Drawing from their responses, we have identified six modalities of a contemporary chief of staff. These modalities are not rigid archetypes designed to impose limitations; instead, they serve as a framework for chiefs of staff and, potentially, recruiters to contemplate the diverse capabilities required to perform in the role. The ideal chief of staff will be able to deploy a number of these modalities when required to best serve their organisation.
Individual chiefs of staff are likely to transition between modalities in response to changes in the external environment or due to shifts in leadership, fostering new relationships within the top team. This flexible approach allows chiefs of staff to dynamically adapt their skill sets to best suit the evolving needs of their role and the organisation.
Strategy architect
High-level adviser to the principal, a strategic thinker and planner with broad business knowledge. Can comfortably step in and act as a proxy when required. Viewed as a C-Suite leader within the organisation.
network Enabler
An expert networker that builds relationships up and down the organisation. Can be relied on to have their finger on the pulse of the organisation and act as a conduit between staff and leadership.
Operations focused
Efficient, organised, and a superb second-in-command, comfortable running the day-to-day operations to free up time for the principal and leadership team to concentrate on strategic decision-making.
alignment Driven
People-orientated, informal, and happy to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, doing whatever is necessary to keep things running. Connects the dots between potentially siloed business units, ensuring strategic alignment across the organisation.
Outcome orientated
An expert multi-tasker and people-manager who can keep everyone on target, on time, and on budget. Has detailed knowledge of the organisation. May be tasked with 'special projects' that are critical the organisation, but do not fit neatly within a speciality function.
Communication centric
A good listener with powerful influencing skills at all levels of the organisation. Can be particularly effective complementing a task- or product-focused principal, serving as a crucial organisational lynchpin. Is a very strong internal and external communicator.