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The push for career growth in senior positions is highly competitive. Managers who aspire to be in senior leadership or C-suite level roles need a specialized combination of management skills and capabilities. Some of these skills can be learned, while others come with maturity and experience. We have identified some executive management skills you will require to progress your career to senior-leadership roles in 2022. Read this article to see which skills you already have and where you need to improve.
1) Senior Leadership
Leadership is an essential management capability that helps organizations harness individual efforts toward collective goals. Therefore, it is among the necessary skills for an executive manager. Organizations seek leaders who can effectively communicate the team’s purpose, harness and develop individual effort, and promote values and creativity. We recommend focusing on the following traits to improve your leadership skills:
- Authenticity: Authentic leaders live and breathe their work ethic and values in the workplace. They complete their job without compromising their values and personalities. If you fit well within the organizational identity and values, you live by and promote the values effortlessly.
- Inclusion: Authenticity should go hand in hand with inclusive behavior. People in your team should feel comfortable being themselves at work. It cultivates a culture of mutual respect and encourages creativity at work.
- Reflection: Organizations seek leaders who learn from past experiences and improve themselves and their teams. To constantly enhance productivity and efficiency, organizations rely on executive managers. Therefore, reflection is a necessary trait to develop your leadership skills.
- Ethics: The ethical behavior of leaders influences company culture and its external reputation. Ethical leadership is knowing your core values and living them in all parts of your life in service to the common good. It invokes confidence in investors and customers, encourages a healthy workplace environment, keeps morale high, and boosts performance.
2) Change Management
Every organization that aims to last in business must keep changing and evolving. Change management includes various ways through which an organization prepares and implements change. It ranges from individual to organizational and enterprise levels. Also, depending on the objective, a change can be developmental, transitional, or transformational.
Change management is an increasingly important skill among executive managers. Senior managers initially help top management plan and execute positive change. As the changes are incorporated, they ensure that their team understands their objectives and can perform efficiently.
Experts call for a need to lead the transformation among critical C-suite skills. While this is the case, organizations don’t always face planned changes. Senior managers should remain at ease with the constant changes their team and organization may face due to internal or external circumstances. To navigate their squad out of turbulent times, they should:
- Decide the objective of the change
- Identify key stakeholders
- Start small and take it slow
- Communicate and listen
- Engage with employees at all levels
- Create a change-friendly environment
3) Strategic Foresight
Strategic thinking is a senior management skill about planning business strategies with the greatest chance of success. Organizations need employees who critically analyze possible business strategies and have the foresight to identify potential growth. They add value to businesses by initiating positive change and maximizing resource use. According to experts, a strategic plan should be matched with an even higher standard of execution, which requires:
- Communications skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Planning and management skills
- Operations expertise
Executives with excellent strategic foresight can identify or anticipate change and prepare their teams and organizations accordingly. Senior managers must be able to constantly formulate forward-looking plans by analyzing all the inputs, like financial statements, market trends, and resource allocations. These inputs arise from the internal and external environment of the organizations.
The fall of Nokia in the late 2000s is often cited as one of the most prominent organizational failures due to non-strategic decisions. They failed to respond to market trends and the emotional climate within the organization. To have good strategic foresight, the senior manager must constantly analyze and extract valuable insight from the internal and external environment of the organization. These include:
4) Communication & Presentation Skills
Good communication skills are vital in an organizational context. To accomplish the organizational goals, the management must create a plan and communicate this to all organization members. The role of senior managers and top executives is much more specialized in this chain of events. They must also motivate people, foster commitment to the company, build relationships, and establish trust and confidence, among many other things. Open and transparent communication not only informs but also creates a culture of belongingness and support within the organization.
As you progress into senior roles, you engage with different stakeholders. Senior managers need to communicate with people at every level of an organization. To effectively communicate at all levels, they should be able to gauge their audience and adjust their communication accordingly. However, some communications skills should reflect in all aspects of executive-level communication:
- Active listening
- Providing feedback
5) Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and recognize and influence the emotions of people around you. Popularly known as EQ, emotional intelligence has evolved into a must-have skill for leaders.
In a survey by CareerBuilder, 71% of employers said they value EQ over IQ. Employees with high EQ are more likely to respond to pressure calmly, talk with empathy, and effectively resolve conflict. EQ also improves your communication skills as you can verbalize your ideas in the best possible way to influence emotions in others. Senior executives set the tone for their team and most of the organization. If the top management lacks EQ, it could result in lower employee engagement and increased turnover. Psychologist Daniel Goleman developed five components of EQ in the 1990s:
- Social skills
6) People Management
Executive managers usually oversee some of the largest teams on the organizational level before transitioning to the C-suite level. A critical responsibility of such senior managers is to represent their team and the people they lead. Your team should listen to you not because you are the boss but because of their trust and confidence in your leadership. An excellent senior manager must have a team-first mindset and lead without rank.
One of the most critical roles of senior managers is to plan the development of their team and train them to be future leaders. Most organizations prefer to choose their leaders from the inside instead of hiring them. Still, most of them do not feel confident in their leadership pipelines. A LinkedIn report highlights that 61% of organizations do not invest in leadership development. The senior managers must create leadership development initiatives that align with the organization’s corporate strategy. This can be achieved by:
- Identifying potential leaders
- Developing a mentorship program
- Hiring a professional development coach
- Giving them Stretch tasks that test their capabilities
- Using proper assessment techniques and providing them with 360-degree feedback
You can also start by delegating responsibilities. Regular and effective delegation of authority is a good practice to identify leadership potential and plan succession in a team. It is a valuable management skill that frees up your time for additional responsibilities. At the same time, the delegation of authority helps develop the team members and encourages job satisfaction through a sense of shared responsibility. It also promotes creativity and inclusion within the team.
7) Stakeholder management
A stakeholder is any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s purpose. As you progress to senior roles, you engage with more and more stakeholders, including but not limited to:
- Local communities
Managing relationships with such varied stakeholders is challenging, so it is an essential management skill. In senior executive roles, relationship management is crucial for organizational success. It helps enhance stakeholders’ commitment to the company and increases the firm’s legitimacy in the market and competitive edge. An organization’s success in managing various stakeholders depends on the senior manager’s ability to balance competing needs. Follow the tips below to manage relationships at work effectively:
- Be clear
- Be consistent
- Communicate well
- Be positive
- Develop interpersonal skills
Being in a top executive or C-suite role is challenging and requires a unique and specialized set of skills. While this list is not exhaustive, it is an ideal first step to assessing yourself and planning your learning and development. We recommend starting by asking for feedback from your team, peers, or seniors. A leader must also learn to demonstrate vulnerability and have the ability to overcome obstacles. Enlist the help of a coach or a mentor or join online courses or programs, and take your first steps toward upskilling today.