3 Vital Executive Leadership Skills to Thrive in the C-Suite

Artists aren’t born with the ability to draw, paint, sing or act. They perfect their craft through knowledge, practice and dedication to reach an expert level. The same holds true for dynamic leaders. The traits and skills of exceptional leaders, just like those of great artists, can be acquired. This is fortunate because the competencies necessary to be a great leader, especially in today’s business landscape, are quite different compared to decades ago. 

A knowledge economy, digital revolution, unprecedented speed of change and unpredictable business environment all have upped the ante for executives. The ability to lead an organization towards market differentiation, revenue growth and long-term success, requires executives to build or enhance three skills fundamental for effective leadership today.

Become an Innovative Leader

Arguably, innovation has never been as critical as it is in our current marketplace. Innovation is critical to achieve growth, new product or service offerings and new ways of delivering value to customers. However, it can be challenging to become an innovative leader. In order to cultivate innovative leadership, adhere to the following practices:

  • Be curious. Exhibit a desire to know more and actively anticipate emerging trends and their implications for your own organization.
  • Develop your ability to effectively communicate convincing strategies or efforts to move your business forward.
  • Be a decisive leader by making decisions in the best interest of the organization with firmness, authority and without hesitation.
  • Be proactive and anticipate potential obstacles before taking action, but avoid over-analysis.

Becoming an Effective Change Agent

The rules and requirements to stay competitive are changing so rapidly that often leaders struggle to stay ahead of the course. While change used to be slow and incremental, organizations today face a whole new breed of change — one that is fast, disruptive and unpredictable. In fact, research from McKinsey suggests that half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior executives don’t act as role models for change, or because people in the organization defend the status quo.

Therefore, the ability to be an effective change agent is a prerequisite for leadership success. In order to build your capacity for helping people understand the need for change, process it and act on it, develop these key skills:

  • Recognize and articulate compelling reasons for change. Craft and customize your messaging to ignite commitment, motivation and excitement among those being affected by change.
  • Create a sense of shared purpose, trust and understanding among employees. Value the opinions
    of others, and be more aggressive in networking during times of change.
  • Access and nurture relationships in order to create personal accountability for change. Be collaborative while holding people accountable.
  • Be open to receiving criticism, but know how to identify valid critique from personal venting.

Build Your Ability to Influence

The “command and control” style of leadership is a dying breed, replaced by a more effective approach that uses influence to win support and spark action. In fact, a leader who applies influence rather than asserts authority is likelier to succeed. Moreover, successful influence strategies can dramatically change the level of engagement, commitment and productivity of your team.

In order to become an influential leader who uses inclusive behaviors to keep control, gain buy-in and advance your agenda, build upon these skills:

  • Openly share your own values and passion with your team in order to find common ground and
    connections that will help you gain points of agreement around the agenda.
  • Positively assert yourself and your ideas, and present compelling rationale to support your position and persuade others to take a course of action.
  • Inspire and gain genuine commitment to executing your cause by engendering loyalty and a sense of belonging among your team. Build a common mission with which the team can identify and rally behind.

Hone Your Leadership Craft

Exceptional leadership is, in many ways, an art form. It requires steadfast commitment to building and enhancing the skills necessary to effectively lead. But, the investment of time and energy has big payoffs. Leadership transforms potential into reality. Nonetheless, better leaders generally develop better employees, and in turn, deliver better results.