One of the substantial changes in executive hiring since the downturn, is the demand irrespective of function, for well centred leadership skills in all hires. Where previously extreme technical competency or specialist knowledge was often sufficient reason to appoint into senior posts, such candidates are now rejected unless they demonstrate leadership behaviours.
While different organisations may place different emphasis on some aspects of leadership capability, five core competencies have emerged as consistently in demand from our own customers. These apply whether the assignment sits in Science and Technology, Corporate and Professional Services Practice or in General and Operational Leadership.
Create a compelling vision
At Department, Function or Entity levels, organisations seek executives who can not only develop an aligned and exciting vision for their remit, but can also bind others to it. These are Leaders who engage their teams in the development of that vision and can sell back the outcome to all stakeholders.
Build a results oriented culture
Once vision is communicated, leaders must be able to break down the journey to achieving it into personal and employee level objectives. This is about being able to measure the implementation of strategy as well as overall delivery. However it is also about keeping employees connected to the vision by reminding them of their ‘purpose’ i.e. the importance of their roles in achieving valued outcomes.
Manage through breakdowns
Decision making and critical thinking, particularly under pressure are essential leadership capabilities. We know from our own research that a leader staying calm at moments of crisis is one of the most highly regarded attributes by their employees. Effective problem solving, and engaging the opinions of others in doing so, are key achievement and engagement factors for a leader with their team.
Much is written about authentic leadership and how it creates sincere and trusting relationships with employees. Being supportive of others, showing genuine appropriate concern and looking for insights and understanding through intuition and perception can help a leader ward off destructive internal or external obstacles to performance.
Earn your respect
Leaders who expect their employees to respect them based on their authority alone are amongst the most ineffective. Relying on title and status to have others follow you is likely to yield only the minimum effort from employees. Truly effective leaders show passion, demonstrate consistent confidence and work extremely hard to engage their people. Earning respect takes time and employees judge a leader on what they do and not what they say. In companies that tend to experience high staff turnover there is a large variance between those two aspects.
The Leaders having the most impact on their organisations are really clear about their values. They use their personal values as a point of reference when they are unsure about how to proceed on any issue. This process alone ensures their consistency.