With ambition changing, only 3 in 10 workers aspire to C-suite roles

As the nature of ambition continues to change in the workplace, just 3 in 10 Americans say they aspire to become a C-suite leader, according to a Feb. 21 report from Empower.

Millennials showed the highest interest in becoming a top executive, at 39%.

In an online survey of 1,117 adults, money clearly topped the list as the main driver of job satisfaction, at 67%. People said they derived more work satisfaction from a higher salary than loyalty or longevity at a company, job recognition, being an inspiring leader or taking on challenging projects.

For some workers, there may be a salary and leadership paradox — or a chicken or egg dilemma, Empower said. For instance, 38% of people (and 55% of Gen Z) said they believe they don’t get paid enough to go “above and beyond” their current job description.

At the same time, about a quarter of survey respondents said they’re not working at full capacity. However, 23% of people (and 37% of Gen Z) noted that nothing will motivate them to work harder. In fact, 31% of respondents said they don’t want their job description to change, even if it means sacrificing a promotion or raise. 

A new sense of ambition seems to be emerging, according to a Randstad report, where workers are less focused on job progression and more focused on other priorities. As part of their career decisions, employees are emphasizing work-life balance, flexibility, equity, belonging and upskilling.

As part of this, attrition appears to be declining so far in 2024, according to a Robert Half report. Fewer workers plan to change jobs due to the stability, flexibility, fulfillment and compensation they have now. 

In most cases, a good salary continues to drive worker fulfillment and play a major role in both retention and recruitment, according to a survey by United Culture. After that, collaborating and “doing something worthwhile” contributed most to fulfillment, while feeling valued by co-workers and receiving recognition from managers played less of a role.