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by Vault Consulting Editors | January 31, 2008

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For any consultant who's faced harsh criticism or doubt that his (or her) field won't teach him front-line or practical operating experience, yesterday's Wall Street Journal offers some reassuring words. Reporter George Anders argues that management consulting can, in fact, lend itself to a successful career in leadership roles of corporations. He points to CEOs of Duracell, eBay and Aon, who all got their start in management consulting and went on to lead successful posts.

Execution, written in 2002 by former Honeywell CEO Lawrence Bossidy and consultant Ram Charan, only confirmed stereotypes that consultants who havent looked up from their PowerPoint slides don't have the execution or people-leading experience to run corporations successfully; they maintain that consultants "haven't had the experience that develops business instinct." The authors prescribe a regimen of moving consultants gradually into operating jobs, so they have time to develop the skills necessary to move into leadership roles.

While history has shown that consultants who skip this step don't always prove to be the best leaders (case in point, Kevin Rollins, former Bainie who went on to lead Dell in 2004 and transitioned out the same year), today's market has opened up some opportunities for consultants to step into leadership roles. For instance, as Steve Ellis, Bain worldwide managing partner, explains, private equity firms are a good match for consultants' skills, since these firms want to make quick decisions to boost shareholder value, which correlates with consultants' ability to see the big picture and make important efficiency-boosting changes in operations.

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