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What Research Shows About the Best Execs

Business leadership is difficult. Top executives have a massive impact on their organizations — not just in business strategy and processes but in the engagement and morale of staff. Thus, it should hardly come as a surprise that a significant portion of executives is unable to perform some critical aspects of their role with efficacy and success.

Fortunately, with research comes greater insight into the factors that do not merely help an executive avoid failure but in fact help them to become great. In particular, a 10-year longitudinal study on executive performance from Harvard University applied a variety of research techniques to identify the four patterns distinguishing the highest-performing executives from the rest. Those patterns include:

The Best Executives Invest Honestly in Their Relationships

Executives are expected to develop meaningful relationships with their team members, which should lead to greater employee engagement and higher performance across the organization. Unfortunately, this can compel executives to create illusions of relationships. Fear of underachievement, political attacks, and the appearance of incompetence can prevent executives from being truly vulnerable with their workers, and that barrier stands in the way of open, honest, and real relationships.

Instead, the best executives lead with humble confidence. They communicate in ways that reach beyond transactions of workplace information, which effectively demonstrates the care they have for those around them. As a result, the best executives imbue their relationships with a profound trust, as those they work with understand that their professional and personal needs will be met.

The Best Executives Understand the Entire Organization

A good executive understands the field they oversee. For example, the most effective IT managers are not merely leaders who can engage their team members and drive high performance, but they also have working IT knowledge and skill themselves, which allows them greater insight into the challenges their teams face. Likewise, marketing managers should have experience in marketing; sales managers should have sales skills; finance managers should be well-versed in finance. Understanding what is necessary to accomplish tasks and complete projects, leaders are better able to provide the support and resources their staff needs to succeed.

Yet, to be truly great, executives need to be able to consider the organization beyond the realm they manage. Every department — every team — within an organization is interlinked with dozens of others, so the choices and behaviors of one executive will inevitably impact the company at large. The best executives have a profound appreciation for how every component of an organization fits together. With this knowledge, executives are more capable of seeing and solving systemic issues and making decisions that provide value across the organization.

The Best Executives Have Deep Industry Experience

In fact, executive knowledge should not stop at the organizational level. No business is an island; every organization operates within a complex and ever-changing ecosystem of suppliers, partners, competitors, and consumers. Executives who have deep contextual knowledge of the industry in which their organization operates are some of the best because they are better equipped to improve their company’s competitiveness as industry trends create change.

There are several valuable insights that industry experience can provide effective executives, including:

  • Insight into the unique qualities of an organization that drive consumer value in their market
  • Insight into target consumer wants and needs
  • Insight into existing and emerging competitive threats
  • Insight into existing and emerging economic, technological, and consumer trends

The Best Executives Balance Instinct and Analysis to Make Decisions

Good executives understand how to leverage data in decision-making. Competent leaders rely on data collection and analysis to provide deeper insights into important issues; they might even invest in data science training to bolster their ability to parse meaning from data.

Other good executives have impeccable intuition. They manifest instinctive reactions when faced with decisions, and more often than not, their impulses will drive them in a successful direction. Trusting one’s gut is always a risk, but good executives with a strong foundation in knowledge and skill will find that they can usually rely on their feelings during the decision-making process, to the extent that they might come to ignore data.

However, the best executives understand how to combine both sources of information while making decisions. Data and intuition are powerful tools that, working in conjunction, can provide executives with a clear path to success. The sooner an aspiring business leader starts training for an executive position, the more likely they are to gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Regardless of an executive’s current position along their career path, they benefit from engaging with online short courses that can provide the attributes and abilities outlined above.

Walter Picardo

I am currently working as a writer/author with Research Snipers RS-News. I have more than 4 years of experience in the same field of reporting and coordinating in a media company. I am passionate about the latest technology, Artificial intelligence, Data science.