C level executives today are not measured against the standards once used to select traditional C-suite candidates. The pace of change is so rapid in certain businesses that past wins have less relevance to future business requirements. On the flip side, it is also difficult to project competencies to deliver business strategy five years in the future because rapid change reduces predictions to little more than well-intended guesses.
Furthermore, the traditional catalog of traits shared by most C-suite leaders — such as a boardroom presence and the ability to deliver P&L performance — is not as likely to carry new C-suite candidates as far or even make them stand out as leaders in times marked by disruption across all sectors. In fact, delivery against an organization’s strategy demands clarity of focus as well as the alignment of everyone in the organization. This generates the pace to successfully drive transformation.
Successful C Level Executives Simplify Complexity
Today’s leaders must have the ability to simplify complexity and operationalize it. Even when the endgame is unknown, as is true with many new and evolving technologies. A leader must be clear about the challenges the organization will address now. While positioning for current needs, he or she must also guide the organization in flexible planning for future business challenges
Disruption and rapid change often result in layers of complexity that can give a sense of chaos to any business caught up in it. A strong leader should be able to simplify needs to a few strong priorities. Once these priorities are identified, a strong leader will develop clear, impactful communications for a strong, role-specific operational narrative that delivers the strategic objectives. They will adhere to this narrative, delivering it through action and story, allowing it to penetrate the hearts and minds of their organization until it becomes a driving force in the organization’s identity.
Also, a great leader will also be comfortable operating outside of their area of expertise. As a result, they leave the silo mentality behind and look to the overall performance of the entire enterprise. It is more than how one team performs against others in the same organization. It is how everyone is performing, and how teams work together to help each other innovate and achieve new goals in the business environment.
C Level Executives Lead by Recognizing the Expertise of Others
In addition, a strong leader plays well on teams they don’t lead. Effective leaders learn to step back and let experts take the lead. This places the emphasis on the importance of leadership, both individual and collective, as a means of delivering on strategy, and the focus of team contributions on the strategic rather than tactical maneuvering.
Also, look for a leader’s ability to groom effective leadership in others. This is a strong measure of self-awareness and an indicator of a leader’s ability to develop individuals whose perspectives differ from his or her own. Also, the people a leader chooses to promote are an indicator of the ability (or lack of ability) to create team diversity. The variety of teams, including in the C-Suite, improves strategic execution and rapid exploitation of emerging opportunities. It also promotes the healthy disruption of the company’s traditional ways of thinking and working.
Successful C Level Executives Exercise Their Intuition
We all have some level of intuition. Today, in this era of disruption, our ability to harness our intuition effectively and leverage it convincingly are more important than ever before. Great leaders sense what’s going on. No one needs to spell it out for them. They have been using their intuition to accurately judge character all of their lives.
Intuition is most highly credible when associated with intelligence. Therefore, the more intelligent others perceive a leader to be, the more likely they will be to respect an intuitive decision.
Of course, decisions that have a greater degree of ambiguity will require more intuition in the decision-making process. For leaders whose background is in engineering, for example, ambiguous decisions can be more difficult to make because these fields are highly analytical and therefore based on data-driven responses. Critical thinking, as opposed to analytical thinking, might be the preferred leadership trait in businesses that lack proven methods or existing markets.
Quite often effective leadership depends on what traits are most critical to the organization’s effective delivery of its goals. When it comes to guiding clients through the exploration of change dynamics, the Manhattan Resources team excels in organizational strategies, techniques and leadership succession.
“In October, we just celebrated 20 years in the business of executive placement and building high-performance teams,” said Manhattan Resources CEO Chris Schoettelkotte. “Over the past two decades, we’ve refined many business practices for today’s specific technical and organizational needs. You might say we are masters at assembling teams that provide the insight and execution our clients need to be at their competitive best.”
Transparent Communications Make Successful C Level Executives
But what do organizations and C level executives have to gain by opening themselves up to scrutiny and competition? A study from employee-feedback company TINYpulse that surveyed more than 40,000 workers found that transparency was the number one factor contributing to their overall happiness. Also, a poll from Label Insight found that 94% of consumers surveyed said they’re more loyal to transparent brands. Additionally, 73% said they’d even pay a little extra to support an open company.
Innovation Leadership — Bottom Up or Top Down?
What makes a business stand out is innovation. Whether it is innovation in delivery, production, process, product attributes, or something else. When we fail to evolve and innovate, we quickly lose our relevance. Everyone involved in innovation recognizes that it proceeds through one of two complementary modes: top-down or bottom-up.
Top-down innovation, as seen with Elon Musk’s Tesla and Space X, is launched and fueled by a strong vision. This vision most often is that of the company founder. Of course, it is ambition-driven and implemented by senior leaders who organize the process from vision to reality. It happens with the support of the company’s employees who buy-in and align with the vision.
Bottom-up innovation, for example, is best illustrated by Google. Here innovation is inspired through many ideas initiated by employees. It is driven by internal entrepreneurs and is supported by an organic emphasis on creativity and a can-do culture.
Both of these modes require dedicated leaders, but they have very different characteristics and behavioral modes associated with them.
In order to foster a bottom-up innovation culture, a leader must channel creativity throughout the organization. They must also support innovation champions to challenge the status quo and pioneer new ways of doing things. In addition, they attract and develop entrepreneurs to take risks and make things happen. Plus, they understand the nature of a can-do climate, discern its vitality, monitor changes, and consistently work to improve it.
Some Traditions Potential C Level Executives May Still Want to Hone
In all business cultures, some traditional skills remain predictors of success in the executive ranks. These tried and true attributes are important assets in prospective candidates for leadership, especially in the C-suite:
- The ability to think strategically and create direction — Potential C level executives should show the ability to think strategically as opposed to tactically. If you have your eyes on the C-suite, work on a cross-functional project with a major strategic component to demonstrate these capabilities.
- The ability to develop talent — Promising leaders will demonstrate the ability to build a strong management team. In addition, they will place emphasis on developing talent. This provides the bandwidth to think strategically, identify innovations and work with peers.
- The ability to drive innovation and manage change — C level executives will identify and allow opportunities for a quantum leap change. These game-changing innovations empower people across the organization.
- The ability to manage laterally — It’s important to work for leaders to work well with peers across organizational boundaries. Senior executives not only manage teams and organizations, but they also influence peers and build support for their initiatives.
- The ability to project executive presence — C level executives project self-confidence and are able to deal with conflict rather than avoid it.
Business leaders today have a nonconformist leadership style and emotional intelligence. But even more important to success, they think like an entrepreneur. In doing so, they consistently monitor trends, manage rapid change, adapt organizational culture, and leadership style when necessary. Finally, C-suite leaders must also show resilience and the ability to fit into the corporate culture and manage politics effectively.
About Manhattan Resources
Manhattan Resources is a retained executive search and advisory services firm with deep experience assisting our clients in building high-performance teams. We specialize in oil & gas, retail energy, power & utilities, petrochemicals, manufacturing, distribution, and engineering. For this reason, Manhattan Resources invites you to experience an executive search and business solutions partner like no other. As always, we are here to help you fill mission-critical leadership roles, build high-performance teams, and tackle significant challenges. We measure our success the same way you do. Making sure your team is exceeding corporate objectives and measuring how much our people move the needle for your company. Manhattan Resources has the agility, innovation and business acumen to assume a bold approach. As a result, we will help you take your business to the next level. Find out how the experts can help. Contact Us >>