Selection criteria for Top 25 Most Powerful Women in C-Suite Impacting Business

The selection panel poured through hundreds of literature and websites looking for the individuals with the full package: first in was humility and empathy, then communication strategies, followed by charisma, passion, personality and culture fit, all important and high-ranking desirable traits normally needed to back up a proven career and human relations track record.

By Dr Hanningtone Gaya,  CEO – The Knowledge Warehouse Kenya

In most companies, the board of directors and the founders are at the top of the corporate hierarchy followed by the 7 C-level executives namely the CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, and so on.

C-level, also called the C-suite, is an adjective used to describe high-ranking executive titles within an organization. The letter C, in this context, stands for chief.  C-level executives work at the highest level within their respective specialized divisions and are not normally engaged in day-to-day management tasks and activities.

A vice president (VP) is a senior-level executive in an organization who reports to the president or the CEO, depending on the choice of terminology preference. They usually function as the second in command within the organization.

Since the advent of the Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) most senior executives have been taught to pull together a portfolio of the technical, financial and operational skills accumulated over their years of experience to be able to cope with the increased responsibility thrust to them on their ascension to the C-Suite.

Our main criteria in the selection and ranking of the Top 25 Most Powerful Woman in the C-Suite most impacting business, searched for candidates whose career path has been deliberately curved to ensure they stood out among other candidates with similar experiences, despite the respective starting point in life and with as little wind assistance as has been practically possible.

Just like is the practice in the recruiting consultancy sector which is reactively evolving with the times, when it came to the Chief Executive Officer, or equivalent in job title as presidents, country manager, country director or a regional lead, we did not consider a long-term track record to be an important predictor of success, much less the sole factor. The selection panel poured through hundreds of literature and websites looking for the individuals with the full package: first in was humility and empathy, then communication strategies, followed by charisma, passion, personality and culture fit, all important and high-ranking desirable traits normally needed to back up a proven career and human relations track record. When requested to submit write ups to back their nominations, candidates who proved inaccessible or too important to engage, easily exited the list.

Public declaration of values such as love and career balance in favour of the children, integrity at work and ethics in business, simple philanthropic interest at local levels that do not earn one publicity, all weighted positively in favour of the respected nominees. Lastly, respect of timelines, the unsung hero of traits of a top manager, reigned supreme. Two CEOs, after being nudged for three weeks, submitted the required information, one week after the magazine had closed for press. Really?

While on this, Russell Reynolds, who partnered with Hogan Assessments to get “Inside the Mind of the Chief Executive Officer,” discovered that most CEOs have a unique psychological profile. I quote below, word for word, although in summary, a few characteristics that they found best-in-class CEOs need to possess and work to maintain.

Courage, Passion and Intensity

An excellent CEO is drawn to change and effective action like a moth to a flame. Best-in-class leaders are always looking towards the future, setting ambitious goals and often rely on their intuition.  CEOs take initiative, are quicker to capitalize on opportunities and are more likely to take high level risks than other executive counterparts. Their intensity and passion for growth and development (should) makes them charismatic and persuasive people, bracketed emphasis, mine.

Resilience and Drive

Leaders know that taking risks and making large-scale changes can lead to exponential growth or can fail dramatically. A key difference between good CEOs and great CEOs is the ability to bounce back and push forward. A great CEO is open to learning from their mistakes and will work to turn unanticipated situations into positive results.

High Emotional Intelligence

CEOs of successful corporations know a key part of success is attributed to collaboration. Great leaders strongly believe in building strong networks and know the best way to do so is forging mutually-beneficial relationships. CEOs are not always extroverted but they can easily read people’s emotions and (ought) to generally warm, easy to approach, trustworthy and uplifting, again, bracketed emphasis mine.


A good CEO should convey a personable demeanour, and one way to achieve this is by remaining humble and modest. Let your work speak for itself and be mindful of natural confidence being perceived as arrogance or pretention. A great leader is not self-involved but instead should be consistently working to develop the next great leader(s).

Excellent Communication Skills

Finally, the climb to the top is never reached without excellent communication skills. Although CEOs are the decision makers, best-in-practice CEOs know that employees who feel valued and integral to the company’s success are incredibly productive. The best leaders are also the best listeners so offer mentorship and support whenever possible. Practice empathy and promote internal, cross-functional collaboration.

If you’re looking to move up be celebrated in this publication on different platforms, it’s time to self-assess. Which of these personality traits and characteristics do you already have and which one can you, with great humility, yearn and learn?

We also acknowledge all the seven levels of the C-Suite and reiterate the equal important role each contributes in an organization, including the Legal counsel and in the interest of our esteemed readers, we delve a bit on the C-Suite terminology. Usually, after the CEO, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) is the substantive number two to the CEO, not the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) although reporting to the CEO.

Often more hands-on than the CEO, the COO looks after day-to-day activities while providing feedback to the CEO. The COO is often referred to as a senior vice president in most MNC especially those in pharmaceuticals, banking, ICT and FMCG sectors.

In an organization or company where a CEO is already in charge, the president is the second in command. The COO, responsible for day-to-day operations, has vice presidents for different divisions of the company reporting to him or her. The COO ensures the company has effective operational and financial procedures in place and is also known as Director of Operations, Operations Director, or Chief Operations Officer.

The CFO only oversees the financial operations of a company and reports to the CEO.

The CEOs of many leading companies employ a ‘Strategic Assistant’ as a right-hand. They are the CEO’s eyes, ears and problem-solver across the business. They can also be elevated as Chief of Staff’ or ‘Executive Assistants’ although all these are different level jobs, depending on the size of the company.

MD is the head of management (either shares the same importance of CEO / COO or is superior to them). A CEO has to guide the employees, and the executive officers whereas Managing Directors are held responsible for any action of the company. He is also accountable to the shareholders and board.

Enjoy the read and kindly share with the team your feedbacks and how best you feel we should be going about these celebrations, recognitions and nominations.


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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