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The Rise of Fractional Executives: A New Trend in Leadership


a pencil drawing of a laop on a desk with coffee cup and a mobile phone

After the global pandemic, a new trend is emerging in the business world: Fractional Executives. This new concept in leadership is gaining attention for good reasons. With businesses embracing flexibility through remote work, part-time engagements, and freelance consultations, many visionary leaders are becoming Fractional Executives. However, there's still some confusion about what this role entails and how it operates.


Understanding Fractional Executives


Fractional Executives are experienced professionals who offer their expertise to businesses on a part-time basis. They fill leadership gaps and bring in external knowledge during critical times in a company's growth.


These executives are a mix between Advisors and Interim Executives, working within a company for a specific period. They are often former founders, operators, or executives.


Here’s a closer look at these roles:



Advisors provide valuable advice but don’t get involved in day-to-day operations. They share their knowledge, which is crucial for a company’s success. Their level of commitment varies: some meet with company leaders monthly, while others spend up to four hours a week advising. They typically work within the core leadership team without taking on actual tasks.


Advisors charge high hourly rates but often work just a few hours a month, sometimes opting for a mix of cash and equity as payment.


Fractional Executives

Fractional Executives combine advice with hands-on work, usually dedicating 7-21 hours a week to manage teams and drive important outcomes. This role requires efficient leadership and management skills to fill strategic and operational gaps, often identified through collaboration with company leadership.


Interim Executives

Interim Executives work full-time, usually more than 40 hours a week, and have a broader scope of responsibilities compared to Fractional Executives. They shape company culture, manage daily operations, and set strategic directions for their roles. Unlike traditional executives who commit long-term, Interim Executives work for a set period.

Their pay varies widely based on factors like location, industry, equity, and specific roles.


Two Models of Fractional Executives

There are 2 main models of Fractional Executives

Part-Time, Flexible Engagement: This model involves part-time work without a set end date. It’s suited for smaller to mid-sized organisations, offering cost-effectiveness and a chance to evaluate fit before committing to full-time.


Full-Time, Fixed Engagement: This model involves full-time work for a specific period, usually six to nine months. Larger organisations often use this model to address complex processes quickly while searching for permanent hires.


Benefits of Fractional Executives

There are numerous benefits of Fractional Executives:

Cost Efficiency: Fractional Executives can deliver significant Return on Investment (ROI) by reducing the costs associated with relationship-building typical of traditional executive roles. They spend less time on internal communications, allowing them to focus on immediate challenges and deliver results.

Niche Expertise: Fractional Executives bring specialised skills tailored to a company’s current stage of growth, which is particularly valuable in the startup ecosystem where different phases require different skill sets.

Mentorship: Fractional Executives often mentor full-time team members, demonstrating strategies that advance the business and paving the way for internal talent to take on more responsibility.

Avoiding Bad Hires: Companies can test out leaders before hiring them full-time, reducing the risk of misfit hires. Fractional Executives also provide relief for executives experiencing burnout, offering a chance to contribute without the demands of a full-time role.


Fractional Executives are becoming more accepted as businesses adapt to flexible work norms. They help companies overcome specific challenges and innovate quickly without the need for full-time commitments. This approach benefits both seasoned leaders and growing businesses, leading to more efficient operations and a stronger, more adaptable workforce.

Interested in a Fractional CMO for your business? Reach out to Lydia McClelland for a discovery call to learn more.

Lydia is also part of a network of Fractional CMOs with VCMO who work with clients across the UK and Ireland.



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