I was on location with a client recently, developing an executive candidate profile for a search we will be launching soon. While there, I had the opportunity to pick the brains of incredibly talented and respected executives who represent the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
In our discussions regarding the most critical characteristics frequently found in highly effective leaders, these common themes emerged:
1. Lead by Example: The behavior of the top executive sets the tone and example for the rest of the organization.
2. Accountable: Is 100% accountable for work performance of all those s/he leads, and embraces the responsibility of holding team members accountable.
3. Superior Interpersonal Skills: Masters the art of being able to connect with anyone regardless of title or role. S/he exhibits a genuine interest in everyone with whom s/he engages.
4. Not Entitled by Title: Whether a CEO of a major corporation or a high level government official, the most effective leaders don’t let their titles define them or allow it to inflate their egos.
5. Careful Listeners and Observers: Part of being an outstanding communicator means being a thoughtful listener. Great leaders are adept at not only processing information, but weighing in at the right time as well. In addition, they are lifelong students of human behavior.
6. Unequivocal Standards: Respected executives hold the line when it comes to realizing exceptionally high standards and expectations. High standards influence corporate culture along with the feel and durability of the brand.
7. Invests Time Wisely: Simply stated, being a good time manager helps one balance the never ending stream of competing priorities that are common to any CEO’s universe.
8. Seeks Advice and Counsel: Confident in his/her own abilities, adept leaders don’t hesitate to tap the knowledge and skills of their vast network. They appreciate the power of seeking advice and counsel of others instead of viewing this as a weakness.
9. Invites the Ideas of Others: The best at the top respect that innovation and solutions can come from anywhere and anyone. Their openness and proactive pursuit of ideas can enhance a collaborative culture and strengthen the creativity of any team.
10. Unflappable Demeanor: Whether there’s a natural disaster, major operational breakdown, or some other kind of drama, truly effective leaders are cool, calm and collected – regardless of the circumstance.
These are characteristics that should be evaluated during the interview process. For candidates, this is a helpful list that can help you define and articulate the strength of your individual leadership profile. For the hiring decision makers and influencers, this list can be used to inspire relevant interview questions that dive deeper into specific sociological dynamics of your desired executive. The good news is these characteristics can be learned, and by becoming aware of them, you can consciously strive to refine how they are practiced. After all, the best leaders lead by example.
Permission to reprint granted so long as article is published in its entirety and author is credited with the following:
Teri Black is a lifelong student of high performance and success and is President/CEO of a Los Angeles-based executive search firm dedicated to serving the public sector. Teri Black & Company, LLC has recruited hundreds of local government executives for communities across the western United States.
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