A groundbreaking new study released by Korn Ferry shows that senior Black profit and loss (P&L) leaders at Fortune 500 companies are some of the highest performing executives in corporate America.
The study, The Black P&L Leader: Insights and Lessons from Senior Black P&L Leaders in Corporate America, examines the attributes and skills that differentiate these executives and the experiences that position them for success. Korn Ferry conducted in-depth interviews with current and former senior Black P&L leaders and Black CEOs, as well as leveraged Korn Ferry’s Four Dimensions of Leadership (KF4D) psychometric-based assessment to gain valuable insights.
Despite the wealth of talent featured in the study, Black executives are underrepresented in the C-suite. Since 1955, there have only been 15 Black CEOs at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. Today, there are only four, none of whom are women.
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“The rapid decline in the number of Black CEOs is alarming given the millions of dollars that companies have spent on diversity and inclusion programs,” said Mike Hyter, managing partner of Korn Ferry. “For things to change, organizations will need to create more inclusive cultures and career opportunities for Black talent.”
Currently, fewer than 10 percent of senior P&L leaders are Black.
“If organizations don’t do things differently, the pipeline will not change in the future,” Hyter added.
The study was conducted in collaboration with The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), a national organization of more than 800 current and former Black CEOs, senior executives at Fortune 1000 and Global 500 companies, entrepreneurs at top-tier firms, and global thought leaders.
Several insights emerged from The Black P&L Leader study to underscore that the participants are among the most driven executives in corporate America:
- Of the Black P&L leaders interviewed, 60 percent of them would never leave their career decisions to chance. They actively took highly strategic or analytical approaches to their professional development. They took the initiative to be accountable for their career progress.
- More than 80 percent were willing to take on more risk to garner influence in their organizations, and 50 percent intentionally sought tough projects with P&L responsibilities that would challenge them professionally and personally, and in turn give them greater visibility in their organizations.
- Nearly 60 percent of the Black P&L leaders reported having to work twice as hard and accomplish twice as much as their peers to counter misperceptions about their skills and results.
- More than 80 percent of the Black P&L leaders said having a sponsor was indispensable to their career progression. Sponsors helped increase exposure and access to opportunities.
- More than 35 percent of the executives said they were assigned extremely tough projects that no one wanted to handle and had a high risk of failure. Many Black P&L leaders felt these assignments were given under the unspoken assumption that they need to prove their worth. Those leaders demonstrated tremendous fortitude and managed significant headwinds, setback and social exclusion to get ahead.
“Despite this, the future is limitless,” said Hyter. “This report allows us to create a picture of what organizations need to do to be intentional about developing more Black talent into P&L leaders.”
”As a former chief human resources officer, I know that every leader has a few missing pieces that need to be developed,” said Skip Spriggs, president and CEO of The ELC. “But when it comes to Black talent, there is an expectation that they have to have all the pieces in order to be considered.”
Given these challenges, Korn Ferry and The ELC are committed to engaging with C-Suite leaders and Boards on how to advance their Black leaders. As research shows, diverse and inclusive teams drive business growth and profitability. Companies that are more intentional about developing Black talent, then, can expect to outpace the competition.