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COOs are increasingly important to corporations, but what skills will they need to perform at their best? Business leaders weigh in.

The COO job description has never been a fixed one: it varies by industry, organization, and need.2 Some COOs may see their role as that of a mentor, whereas others may be partners or heirs apparent to the chief executive. Managing day-to-day operations and executing the strategies of the top management team are only part of the job. In an uncertain postpandemic environment, the COO role is evolving from its roots3 in the back office into a catalyst for technology-driven growth, strategic expansion, and employee empowerment. As chief executives increasingly become the public face of organizations and deal with external constituencies and stakeholders, it often falls to COOs to provide internal leadership and direction. And as operations face extraordinary disruptions, COOs are now key players in boosting organizational resilience and value creation. As such, they are often leading contenders for the top job: in 2021, nearly 27 percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies were promoted4 from the COO role, more than from any other internal position.