There are many traits that support an individual’s success when assuming a leadership or executive role. Clearly, there are numerous books, studies, and entire programs built around building leadership capacity. Here are four basic pillars that serve as a foundation for strong, capable leaders:
1. Skills. These are the raw capabilities of communication, presenting, negotiating, motivating, and leading. Many leaders with whom I partner are working on building their skills in these areas, among others. Leaders must have a clear, compelling and passionate point of view relative to what they do, why they do it, where they are leading the organization, and have the ability to instill emotional energy around their perspective. These skills may have a component of natural capability; yet, they may be also acquired. These skills are then translated into our leadership behaviors which may continue to be refined, taught, learned, and mastered.
2. Knowledge (the smarts!). Knowledge can indeed translate into power. This knowledge may be around product, solution, financial, trend, historical, industry, and even shrewd competitive knowledge. This is an executive’s body of knowledge, their relevant content, and the information by which they govern and lead their organizations. Knowledge is certainly critical; yet, unlike what many believe, it is not the only factor needed to succeed as a leader. It may simply be the one attribute which opens the door to opportunity. It will not keep an executive on an upward trajectory without balance in the other areas.
3. Human stuff. These attributes are often what separates the wheat from the chaff. These are our values. Our tenacity, passion, resiliency, love, care, work ethic, integrity….the list is long. Values are embedded at an early age. They may change and be reinforced by the experiences of our lives. This ‘soft stuff’ is almost always the ‘hard stuff’ when it comes to leadership. I have seen a person’s values often be the first casualty on their road to ego-feeding success. And, what I unequivocally believe is that a leader’s values dictate the winner of the marathon race – not the sprint.
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4. Process and positioning. When an executive is charting their career, it is important to stay current and relevant. It is also vital to use natural gifts and assets to their full potential, which means keeping up with changes, new approaches, and making sure what the person has to offer is indeed relevant to the current challenges and opportunities facing the organization. Leaders must position themselves appropriately, and at the right time for their own growth as well as their organization. If they get ahead of themselves, this can be a real setback long-term.
There are clearly many traits, skills, and behaviors which play into an executive’s career experience; not to mention the timing and external circumstances outside of their control. Thus, keeping a current inventory of what has been learned and how to continue to grow in each of these areas will help ensure they are continuing to stay up to speed and relevant in today’s market.
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