One ex-EA correctly labelled the progression to the Chief of Staff role as ‘The Great Transition’. With the pandemic behind us, CEOs are leveraging their EAs like they have never done before.

At Bain and Gray, Chief of Staff opportunities almost always hit the top salary range (you can refer to our salary survey for more information). It may not come as a surprise that we are never short on applicants.

Salary aside, this is a fantastic career path for an Executive Assistant. However, as stated in our recent How to Become a Celebrity PA, the same word of caution applies: This role is not for the faint hearted!

What employers look for?

The typical EA job spec might include providing support, coordinating tasks, taking messages, arranging travel etc.

Taking the necessary steps towards Chief of Staff (COS) requires:

  • determination
  • strategic thinking
  • commitment to personal growth

This role dates back centuries and originated in the military but even since the Romans the post has not shifted its weighty flair. Do you see yourself becoming the strategic partner that is confident enough to dip their toes into anything from project management, planning, finance, human resources, and risk management?

If yes, Bain and Gray are here to help you ascend to the converted position of COS. This blog is a step-by-step guide to help EAs develop the right qualities and focus on honing the skills required. Let’s us begin with the basics:

Responsibilities of a COS:

  • The eyes and ears of an organisation, focused on driving its success.
  • The glue of the leadership team!
  • Leverages relationships within the organisation to ensure timelines are met.
  • High-level understanding of projects, targets, and expectations of an organisation.
  • Can filter all information of the Leadership Team and CEO with clarity and consistency to the rest of the organisation.

How to Develop into a Chief of Staff: Our 4-Step Plan

1: Master your current Assistant Role

Let us begin with the simplest step; you must excel in your current position! Your goal is to eventually leave with a glowing track record that demonstrates that you can anticipate needs, solve problems, and maintain efficient operations. Every week should be spent fine tuning these essential skills which are vital for leadership:

  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Attention to Detail
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability

Step 2: Build strong relationships.

This is probably the most crucial step in the entire blog! Demonstrate this quality to a future employer and you are sure to secure that final interview. Relationship-building is vital in any industry, but employers will want to see an EA who has mastered the art of building valuable relationships with colleagues, superiors, and cross-functional teams. How else could you possibly succeed at a post which requires you to have a consistently strong presence and facilitate strategic decision-making? Be sure to check our latest review of Matthew Syed's Rebel Ideas for inspiration on how to make the most of handling multiple personalities from different backgrounds. There is no time like the present to elevate the EQ!

Step 3: Develop strategic thinking skills

A successful COS will forget comfort – comfort is what you create for everyone but yourself! An EA aspiring for this role must get excited by the prospect of an environment that is in constant flux with opportunity, information and data whilst managing expectations. Do not expect a consistent template for each working week as you will constantly be thinking on your feet and drawing up plans to do things better.

Here are some things you can put into practice as your current assistant role:

  • Understand your current organisation’s objectives, strategies, and challenges.
  • Understand the current market trends and how that can impact the above.
  • Do not be afraid to contribute valuable insight – you might be surprised!
  • Consider online courses in data analysis to help you spot irregularities in company data and help program your mind for optimised decision making.

Step 4: Develop effective communication skills

Finally, securing a seat at the lead table would require leadership and management skills, and that starts with communication. Being able to communicate, in both verbal and written form, is essential when it comes to guiding others, conveying ideas, and handling internal conflicts. When you look for literature or seminars to amplify your communication skills, be sure to not forget about polishing your negotiating skills which are important when advocating resources, proposing strategies, and managing stakeholder expectations. You can gain some further insight into the art of negotiation over on our Links platform.


There is a new category of EAs emerging with a commitment to excellence that soar beyond a purely supporting role to this pivotal decision-making role. Just think about the power you could have as an EA with the above skillsets: you have a clear understanding of the game, the players, the rules and what is required for success. The top-performing EAs can leverage their experience and provide much-needed perspective of an organisation as a COS. Here is a recap of the above.

  • This is an ideal transition for an EA who is considered the best in the game.
  • Wherever you currently are, ensure you excel at your role as a EA. Go the extra mile! Looking for an EA role? Be sure to check out job board or speak to one of our consultants on 020 7036 2030.
  • Work on yourself and be sure to build a valuable relationship across your current organisation. A COS is the eyes and ears of an organisation, so you need to be able to handle a variety of personalities and get the best out of everyone.
  • This is a strategic role so invest in developing your strategic thinking skills. Learn how to handle change, gain experience in a dynamic company and contribute to problem solving in the operation side of the business.
  • Communication is key!