Recently, I was asked what I thought played into 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. However, when trying to structure my answer to
this group of leaders, these were the basic pillars which I offered as
a foundation for strong, capable leaders:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Process and positioning. When an executive is charting
their career, it is important that we stay current and relevant. It is
our job to use our gifts and assets to their full potential, which
means keeping up with changes, new approaches, and making sure what we
have to offer is indeed relevant to the current challenges and
opportunities facing our organization. We must position ourselves
appropriately, and at the right time for our own growth as well as our
organization. If we get ahead of ourselves, this can be a real setback
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 we have to learn and how we can continue to
grow in each of these areas will help to insure we are continuing to
stay up to speed and relevant in today’s market.