12 Essential Executive Leadership Qualities, Skills and Competencies

Executive leadership is constantly changing and expectations are always increasing, especially in a global operating environment. So, what is that makes certain people stand out as an executive leader? Dealing with executives on a daily basis gives us some important insights by identifying key attributes likely to increase chances of succeeding at the very highest level within organisations. This is not a definitive list, but profiles some important elements to consider, gives ideas on focusing further development or where executives need to fine tune certain skills.

Main Leadership Attributes

Company Figurehead: An integral member of the executive leadership team, with outstanding personal qualities for overseeing the entire organisation and being accountable to stakeholders.

Giving Direction & Vision: A leader who is ultimately responsible for the business operating model and sees the ‘bigger’ picture, whilst inspiring and motivating teams to deliver on long-term goals.

Culture & Values: Executives who can bring together everyone within an organisation to share common goals, establish core values and define ways of working to achieve corporate objectives.

Industry Knowledge: Executives usually possess strong accumulated industry knowledge, contacts and expertise for providing ‘thought leadership’ and understanding key drivers / risk factors.

Skills Expertise: Organisations often pay a premium for specialist skills, industry knowledge and talented individuals who offer something unique (new ideas) or add value through entrepreneurial thinking.

Consultancy Guidance: With proven top-level expertise, executive leaders are often able to guide organisations through difficult times (i.e. recession), periods of massive change or growth phases.

Board Relationships: Executive leaders are confident and assured to successfully influence fellow executives on decisions and negotiate viable outcomes on issues affecting entire organisations.

International Business: Executives need to bring in an international dimension as companies operate in a global economy where local / regional market factors often influence decisions.

Proven Track Record: Leaders build reputations, industry knowledge, skills expertise and contacts networks over time to give assured decision-making, career progression and high performance.

Career Background: Executive leadership positions can be influenced by career background, where commercially-focused, financially astute and operationally aware people tend to take top boardroom roles.

Professional Development: A key differentiator for executives, with growing expectations on completing executive leadership programmes, gaining MBA qualifications or specialist (relevant) courses. Developing essential skills for executives can be achieved through formal courses, seminars and certification.

Continuous Improvement: Striving to be the best by improving own skills, delivering excellence and creating industry-leading propositions to differentiate from competition and maximise opportunities.

Executive Leadership Qualities: Conclusion

Successful executive leaders will have many of these essential attributes, most of which are highly interdependent. It is worthwhile noting that one of the most important aspects of executive leadership is the ability to see the wider picture in the context of a global operating environment as strategic decisions can have far-reaching impacts across several countries or culturally-diverse markets. See our article listing key attributes for becoming a successful executive leader. See our related article on what makes a successful executive leader in global corporations?

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