John O’Loughlin, Managing Partner
Working with clients to develop candidate specifications for over 10 years has resulted in McAleer Gray documenting the key Leadership Traits that drive success. When MG is engaged to conduct a critical and confidential search where an incumbent is being replaced, it is almost always the result of the incumbent’s sub-standard performance in the Leadership dimension of the role and not due to a lack of subject matter expertise in their respective field. The following competencies are a constant in what the new leader must bring to the enterprise and apply to just about every organization regardless of its size, complexity, or stage of evolution:
ABILITY TO FORGE STRONG PARTNERSHIPS – The talent to partner with the boss, peers, staff, and key constituencies is a critical talent and the demand is continuing to increase. The consultative approach that provides value-add and tangible contributions at both the strategic and tactical levels is a pre-requisite in the evolving organizations. Supporting the core business and key functions in the successful development and completion of their short term and long-term business goals is the moving forward model – the silo model is a dying breed.
OPERATIONS AND FINANCE WORKING KNOWLEDGE – Regardless of what area of the organization that an executive resides in and their respective field of subject matter expertise, they must be knowledgeable and very conversant in the company’s P&L and balance sheet . In addition, they must immerse themselves in the core operations of the business so that they are intimately familiar with key processes, leverage points, and the general market and customer base. The successful leader is able to capsulize and quantify how the critical parts of the business align and establish key metrics for their function that drive the business forward.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP – This trait is tricky in that it has more versions of definition that any of the others. Our context is thriving and succeeding in a lean and leveraged environment. This requires a sense of urgency, maximizing limited resources, and thoughtful but reasonable rapid decisiveness. These executives lead by example with a tireless and hands on approach. There is a passion to their pursuit of nurturing a fledgling business to the next level(s).
ABILITY TO SCALE – Whatever the current size of the business is, successfully responding to the complexities of rapid growth requires a special dimension of capabilities. It is a balancing act to identify and successfully execute what elements of the infrastructure can handle the growth as is, which elements require improving, and which ones need to be completely redeveloped or re-engineered – all of this while maintaining high quality and customer satisfaction. These leaders are in far greater demand than those that are in more of a routine or maintenance mode.
ACCOMPLISHED PROCESS AND QUALITY ACUMEN – Continuous improvement and high quality standards and how they can drive a business’ growth and profitability are mandatory. Creating a process for the initial time, enhancing an existing process, or completely developing a replacement process are capabilities that are usually part of the executive’s job accountabilities and/or annual initiatives/projects.
PRO-ACTIVE – Anticipating and identifying opportunities and problems either before they occur or immediately when they do; fully scoping them and putting a detailed operating plan together to exploit and leverage the opportunity and , for the problem, also a detailed plan to minimize and mitigate it.
CRITICAL THINKER – Raw IQ is not nearly enough. In addition to smarts, the successful executive must exhibit the right combination of EQ & IQ, logical sequencing, innate problem solving ability and good ole common sense. Finally, the perfect blend of strategy and operations. They must demonstrate being an accomplished pilot at all altitude levels.
MOTIVATOR – Leads by example by taking the initiative, demonstrates being a self-starter, capable of inspiring others, and invests in talent development. These positive leaders tend to have patterns of multiple successes and accomplishment across various situations and challenges through the course of their careers.