The Path to the C-suite: 5 Skills You Need to Reach the Top

Business group in boardroom shaking hands

A skill is something that you can develop. Executives who took a McKinsey survey said that it was most important to (1) create a shared vision on business priorities, (2) get the team right, and (3) devote time to understanding organizational culture. By becoming competent in the five skills listed below, you increase your ability to be successful in a C-suite role.

Emotional Intelligence

Much has been written about emotional intelligence (EI) for leaders. Generally, emotional intelligence consists of five elements: empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and social skills. Not only do you have to understand your own skill level though, you have to be aware of the emotional intelligence level of your subordinates. Leaders who use transformative leadership practices are using EI. Transformative leaders inspire people, have charisma, promote creativity, support divergent points of view, and develop workplaces where their employees are empowered and respected. If you are interested in a quick assessment, visit Unlock Your Emotional Genius.

Understand Data

We are surrounded by data: big data, analytics, benchmarks, and metrics. Digitization has made it easy to collect data. The challenge is transforming that data into usable information. Dashboards, with their green, yellow, and red bars are appealing in their simplicity. They are also deceptive. Groysberg, Kelly, and MacDonald noted that understanding how data can be used was a key skill in a C-suite leader. Zambito argued that C-suite executives needed to master seven elements to understand their customers. These elements are (1) research, analytics, and insights, (2) persona-based common views, (3) customer ecosystem, (4) customer journey mapping, (5) customer and buying scenario mapping, (6) emotion, empathy, and mental modeling, and (7) customer future casting. Without this holistic understanding, Zambito stated that organizations are unable to successfully gain and retain customers.

Ability to tell a Compelling Story

Can you tell a compelling story? People respond to stories because stories touch our emotions. Business situation storytelling can come in two categories, first when the storyteller uses a metaphor, and second when stories rely on context and specificity to make sense. Storytelling is a powerful leadership tool. It is a way to break down barriers between leaders and workers; yet, the story is not all about you, rather it is a way to create a bridge between you and your listeners.

Tolerance for Ambiguity

Do you like everything in black-and-white? It is likely then that you will be a poor fit in the C-suite. Belsky advised that leaders need to have faith in the law of averages, to work with what they knew, identify what they didn’t know, and then make decisions. Change is always messy in the middle. Stinnett suggested that technical experts have problems dealing with people because people by nature are ambiguous. Just like EI, tolerance for ambiguity correlates to leadership characteristics such as creativity, effective risk-taking, and resilience.

Ability to Delegate

When you are in the C-suite you cannot do everything yourself: a particular challenge for technical experts. Here are several red flags you can use to identify whether you need to delegate. Among these flags are that you claim that you don’t have time to delegate or train someone, and you don’t delegate a task because a portion of the process is complex or has exceptions. To be an effective C-suite leader you need to let go of technical expertise and let go of the ‘do-it-yourself’ mindset. Successfully delegating is a skill that can be developed.

Chances are that you are already using each of these five skills. Take a moment and a piece of paper. List the skills, then grade yourself on how well you use each skill. You are probably excellent in one or two, so-so in a couple, and not so great in another. Congratulate yourself on what you are doing well; then pick the skill that needs the most improvement and set up a learning/practice plan. In time, you will be walking into that C-suite job because you mastered emotional intelligence, understand data, can tell a compelling story, are comfortable with ambiguity, and you can delegate effectively.

By Barbachano Staff

At Barbachano International (BIP), we know that talent is the most important asset a company has. When people shine, businesses light up. We help leaders and organizations unleash their full potential in Mexico, LATAM & the US. Get in touch with us today at (619) 427-2310 or email us at barbachano@bipsearch.com. Experience the BIP difference.

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