What does one need to be promoted into the executive ranks?
This was a question posed to me by a former student. Now embedded in a company, he wanted to climb the next rung of the corporate ladder but wasn’t sure about the attributes necessary for this advancement.
Such promotions are as much about your presence as it is about skills.
The nature of an executive
Executives, even at the lowest levels, must be leaders. It is part of the role. This is the primary element to senior advancement. Managers with competent skills but no leadership ability will not make good executives.
Your boss knows this, and so does his boss.
Key then is presenting yourself, day in and day out, as a leader and as a team player. You need to appear as someone who can gain the willing, if not enthusiastic, support of your peers and employees.
What to present to everyone
It is what leaders do that make them leaders. Their behaviors, not their acquired skills, define how they are perceived. Some of the essential aspects of the executive leader include:
- Jumps right in without being asked: An executive wants to get the job done, and thus is always willing to go the extra mile.
- Early to work, last one to leave: This doesn’t mean being a workaholic. It means showing a dedication to effort.
- Doesn’t take long lunch breaks: Everyone likes to relax. Leaders like to achieve, and by getting back to the corporate mission ASAP, they show their employees what are the right priorities.
- Doesn’t whine or complain: Complainers rarely achieve. Complainers almost never acquire followers. Leaders cannot afford to complain.
- Is loved by his or her people: This starts by loving others. Until you can do that, your team will not strive for the common goals.
- Gets things done on time and with the lowest cost: This is a business. Executives meet business goals, the two most recurring ones being making products/service ready for customers and making a profit.
- Doesn’t ask for anything, puts others first: Part of servant leadership is making your team’s needs a priority.
- Is kind and understanding: Leading is a “people” business. Cracking a whip over your employees only makes them want to leave.
- Good listener: Executives are the mind and heartbeat of their group. They need signals from the body, the employees. Listening becomes your central nervous system.
- Has all the attributes of the Scout Law: Wouldn’t you want to follow some who was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent?
- Clean shaven and well dressed: Nobody follows a bum, so you should never appear as one to the company or your employees.
- Does the Tough Things First: Getting hard problems solved up-front makes everyone’s jobs easier in the long run, and thus engenders belief in common goals and outcomes.