Five key behaviors practiced by successful executives
We have all observed great leaders’ behaviors before, yet so often, we struggle to identify what makes them great. Unfortunately, it is usually much more comfortable to recall the actions that make someone a bad leader. There are likely to be many reasons for this; however, the most obvious one is that the number of bad leaders far exceeds that of the good ones. To find out what qualities make someone an effective leader and, therefore, a successful executive, we surveyed hundreds of our members. We analyzed their responses to narrow it down to just five superficial qualities. Sound too simple? Perhaps if you canvassed the general public, you’d find it difficult to trust the results, but when your audience comprises executives from the world’s leading public and private organizations, that no longer applies.
For companies, the damage done by an executive who is a bad leader can be catastrophic. Therefore, you must understand what leadership qualities to look for when making your next executive hiring decision. So for your benefit, here are the top attributes our members identified:
1: They empower their people to make decisions:
In a small company, you can probably do everything yourself; however, as the business scales and your mandate follow, you can’t expect to handle everything on your own. You’ve probably heard the term “Share the legos” tossed around at leadership seminars in the past, yet most fail to practice the simple advice. One of the easiest ways to judge a leader's track record is to see where those who work/ed under them end up.
2: They don’t waste time trying to master everything.
We all have our superpowers, and trying to be a master of all will inevitably lead to your failure to perform. Focus on improving your strengths and becoming aware of your weaknesses. The team you build to support you should fortify the areas that are weakest for you. If they don’t fill that void, you should re-examine the process you use to select your leadership team.
3: They’re humble.
Now bear with us before you roll your eyes. Being “humble” as an effective form of leadership does not merely mean you refrain from bragging and practice acknowledging your failures as most guides would suggest. Anyone can do those things, and often they are used to cloak narcissism. No, true humility in leadership is when you allow others’ expertise to guide your decisions and influence your thinking patterns. It is the act of admitting when others know more than you do, and to share the credit when their advice leads to a victory. That is how true leaders practice humility.
4: They have ZERO tolerance for toxic behavior.
Toxic employees can single-handedly destroy an organization. It’s a clear sign of weak leadership when cultures become one of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Allowing your workplace culture to instill fear in your workforce is a guaranteed way to see unhealthy churn levels and significantly reduced productivity. Great leaders understand that people are the most important part of an organization, and they make it their mission to protect those people and create an environment where they feel safe enough to push their limits and take risks. That is how great leaders get the most out of their employees.
5: They place the needs of their team before their own.
True leaders understand that their real duty is the safety and security of their people. The simple fact is that your people’s welfare should be placed above your own, and your role is to absorb the blows that are meant for them. That is the cost of being in a leadership position, and if you aren’t willing to pay it, you have no business being an executive. Unfortunately, the allure of power and money sometimes pulls people into the executive career path for the wrong reasons and the people under them suffer for it.
Luckily, it isn’t hard to weed those people out, as all you need to do is take a look at their teams. There are many comparisons between management and parenthood, and the best leaders understand that just as you would never place your needs above that of your children, it’s a sign of poor leadership when someone fails to take care of their team. The best executives can excel because their team supports them, and their team can do so because they feel cared for and protected.
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George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers. Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.