The Chief of Staff: An underappreciated but potentially vital part of senior leadership

We had a book launch yesterday, August 14! Our new book, “Senior Leadership Teams and the Agile Organization,” was just published with Routledge in the SIOP Frontiers Series. My advisor Dr. Stephen Zaccaro is the lead editor, who invited me to contribute to the book and co-write a chapter with me, and through this process I’ve gotten to learn so much from the other co-editors as well. You can find out more about the book at this website [20% discount using code EFL03]

I had the honor of being involved in two chapters, one of which I served as primary author: “Creating the Interpersonal Context for Enabling Organizational Agility: The Underappreciated Role of the Chief of Staff”

So… what is this Chief of Staff role?

We found that there is almost no empirical research on the role of the COS, outside of its military and government origins. And yet, there’s been a growing interest in the COS in traditional business settings. Just look at organizations like the Chief of Staff Network and articles like Ciampa’s (2020) HBR article, “The Case for a Chief of Staff.” There seems to be something uniquely special about this COS role: someone engaged in high-level strategic thinking, yet also able to manage operational details, and responsible for interfacing with the rest of the top management team (despite rarely ever being recognized as a formal member of the C-suite).

Our chapter in this book summarizes the research that we could find about the COS role and advances several propositions for future empirical scholarly research on the role. We discuss how the COS is simultaneously an administrator, an advisor, and a connector, and as a result, directly impactful in promoting organizational agility by facilitating cognitive and behavioral integration across C-suite and top management team members.

Interested in learning more? We are working on an original empirical study of the Chief of Staff (combining thousands of LinkedIn data points with hundreds of survey responses and a dozen in-depth interviews), partnering with the team at the Chief of Staff Expert to do so. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in reading our book chapter, and/or subscribe to stay in touch!