12 Essential Qualities Executives Should Possess
To be a truly effective and respected leader there are certain qualities you must possess. While some of these qualities may come to you naturally, many of them are learned from mentors and gained through experience. In this article we’re going to outline 12 qualities that are an absolute must for any executive as well as those seeking to climb the leadership ladder.
The first must-have quality is the ability to listen, both to your employees and your fellow executives. Why is this so important? When you listen – actually listen – you do more than just hear what people around you are saying. As a leader you need to be able to establish an emotional connection with those you speak with. A good listener not only learns, they create a safe environment so others will speak openly. This is especially important if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, because people often won’t be open and speak honestly unless they feel secure in doing so.
By listening to your peers, mentors, and team members you’ll learn what you can and need to do for your company. As your executive career grows, so does your knowledge; as your knowledge grows, so does your value to the company. Great leaders don’t think they know everything about their company or industry and are not afraid to learn about new ideas and trends that could boost their company’s overall value. If they know it they spread their knowledge, otherwise they pick up a book or go online and learn about it. Continuously expanding your knowledge about your company’s vision and industry trends is something you shouldn’t shy away from. You need to be intellectually hungry and anxious to learn new things.
Remember though, while possessing a wealth of knowledge is good, a truly wise leader isn’t afraid to admit when they don’t know something. Even wiser yet is the leader who will immediately learn about something in order to share that newly found knowledge with their peers.
Hand in hand with listening comes the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. It is the one skill that all executives know they need, yet only a select few do well. An executive needs to continually share information. If you can’t communicate that information clearly, mistakes can result.
Keep your door open, if not literally at least figuratively. While an executive’s job isn’t to make friends – it’s to keep the gears of the corporate engine turning – it doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself. This can be damaging in the sense that it makes you appear unapproachable and can cause a feeling of uncertainty in your employees. Maintain an Open Door Policy. This is a great way of establishing and maintaining trust and open communications with your employees and peers.
Remember that communication isn’t always verbal. You also communicate through actions, which as the saying goes, sometimes speak louder than words. That’s why you need to be careful about how you conduct yourself. When your team knows you’re reliable and can be trusted, they’ll follow you without hesitation. Good communication also builds skills that help you anticipate things to come.
Possessing the ability to anticipate outcomes means being able to look ahead and form a picture in your mind of what will be there. In order to hone your anticipating skill, you need to be able to identify patterns, both among your employees and with today’s constantly evolving trends in technology and business processes. By doing this you can make an informed prediction and plan ahead accordingly. Don’t go it alone. You may be the leader, but a great leader takes the time – even encourages – their teams to voice opinions, which also helps you plan for things to come.
While your skill in anticipating future outcomes is great for planning ahead, there is one thing to always remember: No matter how well you plan, something unexpected will always pop up, usually at the most inopportune time. So along with being good at anticipating, the ability to navigate around sudden and unexpected obstacles is very important. When issues or problems arise, you need to be able to think on your feet and act quickly and decisively. By planning ahead you’ll know where to go and who to speak with, successfully navigating your way through the obstacles. This will reduce employee panic and increase not just your own, but your company’s efficiency, which can get you noticed by your peers and possibly even Board Members. A good navigator is a good problem solver, which is a highly valued trait for executive leaders.
A great leader gives credit where it’s due. A growing practice is to reward people for their accomplishments, not just the final product, but each step along the way. Rewarding someone is different than compensating them. A reward doesn’t have to be money or something big. It doesn’t even need to be tangible. A simple word of encouragement or praise, recognition of their work to upper management or in a meeting, or even just a thank you note left on their desk or email goes a long way.
This creates a welcoming, open atmosphere which in turn encourages productivity, innovation, and most importantly, happiness. When people are happy they enjoy coming to work and will always bring their “A Game.” This helps reduce turnover, increases productivity, and keeps the company’s vision moving forward.
Rewarding and encouraging your teams is a great way to motivate your people and retain them, but inspiring and empowering them is what really drives results. You can’t just wave your hand and empower somebody. Inspiration is the key. If you inspire them, empowerment will follow.
Instead of handing out everyday tasks – which, by the way, is one of the fastest ways to cause your team’s eyes to glaze over – delegate small opportunities to those who have proven themselves and allow them to make decisions and set a course of action. This lets a person feel appreciated and needed, which may be just the thing to inspire them to go on and do great things for the company.
Measuring the success of your company involves more than just looking at how much profit is earned. It’s about making sure your company’s vision and strategy are being executed the way you envisioned. The best way of monitoring results in your company is by applying metrics. Doing this allows you to see what is and isn’t working, how your employees are performing, and which departments need to be fine-tuned.
Monitoring these results also helps you plan for the future. Using metrics helps you establish baselines and patterns so you can make educated predictions and decisions. If you focus strictly on the present you won’t have time to plan for tomorrow.
More important than great leaders are the people who support them. By far, dedicated employees are a company’s most important asset. Keep in mind that when building teams you want to avoid selecting people who reflect your strengths and views. Instead choose people who compliment your strengths and those of existing team members. It’s like putting together a puzzle – each piece is different but it adds to the big picture.
In order to retain dedicated employees, treat them with dignity and keep them challenged. People who know they are valued and are continuously challenged tend to be more self-motivated and set higher goals for themselves.
Having a vision for your company and a strategy to bring it to fruition is extremely important in successfully leading a company. Keep in mind that it isn’t about you, it’s about the company, so be open to ideas that are brought to your desk. Your team leaders know their departments best and will often present innovative ideas that resolve issues faster, save your company time and money, and make their teams more effective.
In a perfect world, leaders would reach out to all their employees with updates about the company, weekly goals, and other important information. But let's face it, it’s hard to find the time to do it. That's why you have team leaders to delegate these things to. You connect with them, they connect with their team. You’ll often find out that things which may not seem important to you may be vital to a department. Share information on at least a weekly basis. Without your guidance and insight your team leaders won’t have complete direction to give their teams. Giving accurate guidance and a sense of purpose to your team leaders instills in them a sense of urgency and lets them feel a part of the big picture. It can mean the difference between them doing well some of the time and going above and beyond.
We all know what kind of leader we would be if given the chance. However being the leader isn't about you, it's about your company and its employees. Listen to what your people want. Welcome innovation, and don't be afraid of change. The world is ever changing and you need to keep up if you want to maintain an edge.
A leader must show credibility and integrity, and should lead by example. A leader who faces a challenge with dignity and grace is one who people enjoy working for. It inspires them to follow your path and example, especially when your belief in the company's mission is authentic. Actions will always speak louder than words, and as the leader, somebody is always observing you.
Motivate and inspire, and do it with dignity, grace and restraint. These are qualities all leaders should possess.
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Research cited from:
“The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership” – Gary Burnison