Experts in the Media

Laura Grierson – Smart Company

Director, Acacia Executive Search

The five traits most successful executives have in common.

While there’s no one size fits all executive, there’s five essential skills that can improve a board’s likelihood of choosing the right executive and enhance a leader’s chances of succeeding in the role.

While strategic thinking and being results-driven and adaptable will always be highly valued, there’s also emerging research pointing towards specific attributes which will be vital to surviving in this new age characterised by volatility, transparency, and interconnectedness.

To design an executive assessment process Acacia looked at the breadth of research by HBR, PWC, Deloitte and McKinsey as well as the AESC, and found a pattern of five attributes that we believe will be required for top executives to thrive:

Entrepreneurial mindset

Now, more than ever, businesses and leaders need to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. An entrepreneurial mindset means quickly seeing, reading and moving on opportunities, then failing and learning from them even faster (HBR, 2014). A very digital age calls for leaders who are open to innovation, future technologies and have their finger on the pulse.

Knowing thyself

Strong leaders have strong self-awareness, not only of their general personality characteristics (how they think, natural tendencies), but also of how their behaviour and mindset affect others. They intuitively sense how people feel and take a sincere interest in supporting them to overcome challenges. They’re not afraid to be authentic and show vulnerability, which is vital for building trust, relationships and a brand that people can connect to.

Change agents

The ability to lead change was listed as the number one top leadership quality for next-generation leaders in AESC’s survey taken by more than 850 execs across the world, and by HBR as one of the top seven skills you need to thrive in the C-Suite. Next-generation leaders need to be comfortable in climates of fast pace, uncertainty and sweeping change. These leaders welcome new ideas, love the process of evolving and growing, are tuned into disruptive potential – and most importantly, are experts at fostering cultures conducive to change.

Bridge builders

Leaders who will be able to drive forward in this world are those who embrace diversity of thought and collaboration. They bridge the divide between different viewpoints through shared underlying values. They shun unnecessary processes and instead drive transparency, collaboration and a culture of sharing as this allows them to move faster, learn and improve.

Engaging teams

A world-class leader must be able to hire and develop an exceptionally strong leadership team. They need to excel at bringing others along on the journey, and be skilled at influencing, inspiring and creating a devout and committed group ready to follow. According to AESC being able to engage the best talent is crucial for a company’s ability to keep up with new technical capabilities required to survive, move forward, evolve and develop.

Good executives can become good leaders, but it takes time, the right guidance, and significant investment for them to become great.

Laura Grierson is the director at Acacia Executive Search.