For the modern SAP Leader, career ladders are a thing of the past.

They are an artifact of the Mad Men era, when you signed onto an organization at 21, followed the rules, were incrementally promoted along the way, and retired with a gold watch.

Those days are long gone.

The concept of a career ladder died about 30-years ago, when over 85% of Fortune 1000 companies downsized their white-collar workforce. particularly mid-management jobs.

As those companies thinned out, leadership positions disappeared and will never be seen again.

The career ladder has been replaced with the corporate pyramid. Most top-performers (and if you’re reading this I assume you either are a top-performer or you want to be one) have a burning desire to expand, develop, and advance both personally and professionally.

However, as you move up the food chain in your career, the competition for the top-spots heats up, and the failure rates are staggering:

The Harvard Business Review puts the failure rate among management hires at 60%, and the consequences of failure in your current role can derail a once-promising career.

So if you’re a VP who wants to break into the C-Suite, an SAP Director who feels you have what it takes to be a ‘Veep,’ a Manager looking to step up to the next rung of career success…

…or even if you’ve made it to the top of the mountain but realize now that all eyes are on you to lead your people to the promised land (all while building shareholder value)…

…the higher up the food chain you are, the hotter the competition gets. No matter how good you are, or think you are, if you want to compete and win, you need an edge.

Jack Welch, in building General Electric to become one of the most respected companies in the world, famously spent 50% of his time on talent issues.

Why were talent issues such a focus of his? Because he believed despite a company’s technological innovation, intellectual property, or brand recognition, talent alone is the only true sustainable differentiator that really matters.

Larry Bossidy (Jack’s most well-known protégé, CEO of AlliedSignal, and incidentally one of my business heroes) famously said:

“Nothing our company does is more important than hiring and developing superior talent.”

And the cliche that effective leadership means hiring those who are smarter than you, is a cliche precisely because it’s true. So why is it that almost 50% of all hires are mis-hires, across every industry?

Your key to the C-Suite, or to greater shareholder value, or just to feel like you’re a top-performer yourself, is the talent you hire.

Focus on this, above all else, because without a Rockstar team behind you, you’ll never the opportunity to show the world how great of a leader you truly are.