Perhaps you serve on the board of a company that has just hired a new executive. Or perhaps you are that new executive and you’re excited and motivated, but slightly wary of your new position. In the business world today, executives in all industries face major challenges, because they’re expected to achieve and sustain stellar results. Furthermore, globalization, changes in the marketplace, and an increasingly strict regulatory environment raise expectations of today’s executive.
How can one person possibly satisfy all the expectations placed on today’s CEO or other high level executive? A top executive must have a strong repertoire of leadership skills, plus the insight to know what is called for based on the economy, the customers, and the corporate environment.
Improving Tactical Competencies
An executive must have outstanding critical and strategic thinking skills to be able to interpret market conditions and how to meet them. At the same time, he or she must be able to make decisions, sometimes quickly and with insufficient information. Always viewed as a leader, the executive has to know how to direct the team, how to communicate effectively with people throughout the chain of command, and must possess a level of relevant talent that commands respect.
Many executives, new and experienced, turn to executive coaching to help with these tactical skills. More personal than a consultant, a coach helps the executive with the equivalent of “improving their backhand” through discussion, role-play, practice, and deconstructing situations for clues.
Inner Qualities that Matter in the Executive Suite
Excellent competencies are necessary, but not sufficient to lead to a successful tenure as an executive. Character is equally important. Does an executive espouse certain beliefs, then act in ways that contradict them? That’s not good. These inner traits fall under the heading of “integrity.” Integrity is derived from the Latin “integritatem,” which refers to “soundness, wholeness, blamelessness.” Integrity is about being at one with who you claim you are, and while there have been times when executive integrity has been less important than getting results the shareholders like, today integrity is considered more important than ever because of the openness and speed with which communication takes place.
A coach can’t be expected to make a dishonest person honest. But a good coach can be expected to help executives define what their core beliefs are, and make decisions that are in keeping with them.
Integrating Skills With Character
Executive coaching can help bring skills and decisions into line with an executive’s core beliefs, helping him or her demonstrate integrity on a regular basis. The fact is, today’s executive has to have it all: outstanding knowledge and demonstrable skills, along with strong character and a reputation for sound decision-making. It’s no wonder so few people ever advance that far!
What an executive can’t do is assume that what got him or her to the corner office is sufficient for success there. Skills development is expected of employees at every level, and the executive is no exception. But with few or no people to directly report to, executives often have to take on this responsibility themselves, whether it means enrolling in leadership training or working with an executive coach to build a customized skill set.
New Non-Negotiable Executive Outlooks
Those who make it to the executive level today are expected to have a global outlook, and at the same time, they’re expected to be team players. The “star culture” may have mattered at one time, but results are what matters now. An executive who doesn’t allow opportunities for growth and development of team members is more likely to be replaced than revered. Relevant technical skills are considered a baseline requirement, and “soft skills” like getting along with others are considered non-negotiable as well.
Clearly, much is expected of top executives. If the skills and personal characteristics are there, an executive has the opportunity to accomplish amazing things and really make an impact. It’s not like a person can go to “CEO school” and learn a fixed set of skills to succeed as an executive. Much of that responsibility is on the executive him- or herself.
I have written extensively about leadership development and leadership culture and invite you to have a look at my books, including Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential. It’s for executives, or any professional who is determined to fulfill his or her potential. Taking on that initiative is the sign of someone with a bright future, and I’m happy to help in any way I can.