What it takes to be a senior executive

Digital disruption has now inculcated an urgency for executives to revisit their strategies and create a new vision for the modern world

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Mar 25, 2019 10:32:04 AM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

You can only completely understand what it takes to be a senior-level executive after you have become one. I think it is important to start educating the layer below to understand the areas they must develop in to grow into the top level of leadership in their organisations and industry. Moreover, if you have been cruising in your role as a senior executive for years, digital disruption has now inculcated an urgency to revisit strategies and create a new vision for the modern world. You must continue to empower yourself to leverage data, people, innovation and technology to stay relevant.

Is your organisation providing the support to senior leadership to help develop the required competencies? Following are the critical areas where excellence is expected in the senior leadership team:

It all starts with leading self
If you are in a senior executive position, chances are you have already understood the importance of developing self-awareness and are learning to understand and manage your own emotions effectively. Continuing to build your emotional intelligence is very important. You must have a clear understanding of your personal value system, core beliefs, biases–-both conscious and unconscious. One of the most critical skills is having a clear personal vision and being able to collectively define an organisational vision, and then formulate a plan to communicate it throughout the organisation.

Then comes leading people and teams
You have to be an expert at being able to identify ways to lead engaged teams. You would have figured out how to plan strategies to enhance team performance. Driving results can only happen through effective planning and execution. Not only do you have to manage cultural and generational diversities effectively, but you also have to coach your team members to do so.

Lead and manage business risks
Understanding various types of business risks and managing those becomes very important. Exploring ways to reduce risks and liabilities must be on your mind.

Be a strategy leader
At this level, you are the leaders of defining strategy. You must understand relationships among the various parts of the business model, disrupt the business model if required, identify hypotheses, assumptions and risks behind the business and continuously find ways to add value or reduce cost.

Leading business (digital transformation and entrepreneurship)
Senior leaders have to understand the dynamics of driving results in a VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Changing Ambiguous) world. They must determine the current and desired state of digital metamorphosis in the organisation, identify ways to leverage existing digital platforms to transform the business and understand the impact of using digital technology to improve business value.

Become innovation and change leaders
As part of the business strategy, it is important for senior leaders to understand how their organisation can innovate. Identify obstacles that inhibit creativity and innovation and set constructs to transform the culture. While generating ideas to innovate and improve business outcomes is essential, involving others in this process is mandatory.

Using data for decisions 
While self-awareness will improve your intuition skills, understanding the data-driven decision-making process becomes crucial too. Recognising the importance of using data to guide business planning, identifying the primary sources of data for decision making and using results of data analysis to make business decisions must become second nature by the time you get to this level.

Build a leadership pipeline 
Remember it is your responsibility to identify competencies that make a successful leader in the organisation. You have to identify high-potential candidates and groom them at all levels in the organisation. Plan a process and strategy to plan the career progression and enhance the knowledge, skill and behaviour of high-potential employees.

While it is desirable that you get great at all the above mentioned competencies, most leaders have one or two strengths that they leverage and work with others to get better at the others.

The author is a founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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