Making it to the C-suite: What skills do you need to stand out?
The C-suite. It’s more than just a comfortable office, exciting travel opportunities and an appealing salary. Once you’ve made it to these upper echelons of an organisation, you’ve really made it. Not only do you become one of the most influential individuals within your organisation, but you’ll also have a wealth of power at your fingertips that can encourage positive change for you, your colleagues and the business as a whole.
With perks like this, is it any wonder why a whopping 87% of executives admitted in a recent survey that they intend to pursue a C-suite role in future. However, making it to CEO, COO or CIO level and making a successful transition is no easy feat. With plenty of executives out there who are eager to progress to the top-level and only a few C-suite roles on offer, competition is fierce. The responsibilities and pressure associated with the role can also be overwhelming for those who are underprepared for it.
So, what can you to not only make it to the C-suite but also thrive in it once you get there?
Whether the C-suite is years of hard work away or something you want to strive for in the near future, here are some vital skills you should start mastering if you want to make it to the top.
Unsurprisingly, having strong leadership skills are an absolute must when you’re pursuing C-suite roles. However, these skills aren’t just about demonstrating how well you can assert your authority and power over others. It’s also about being able to build a rapport with your team so you can motivate and inspire them to work more innovatively and effectively, whilst also driving them forward to meet organisational goals. If you can’t get people to follow you and to understand your vision for the organisation, your skills as a leader will quickly come into question.
If you feel like you’re lacking in this area, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your leadership skills and make them stronger. You can serve on an executive board or seek out and volunteer for leadership development opportunities within your organisation. This could involve heading up a new task force or creating a team of specialists to come up with a solution to a challenge the business has been facing. Regardless of your age, finding a mentor or shadowing a leader who inspires you can also be beneficial in developing your skills further.
Change management skills at C-suite level haven’t always been considered essential. But they’ve definitely grown in demand in recent years. Working at the apex of an organisation means you need to have the ability to recognise new opportunities and drive the essential changes needed to produce exceptional results. Whether it’s a large scale digital transformation project or a small change to one of your processes, change is constantly happening within an organisation, regardless of what industry it's in. As one of its leaders, you’ll need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset in order to keep up.
While it might seem strange, one of the most effective ways of improving your change management skills is by improving your communication skills. During periods of change, honest, and well-distributed communication with your team is critical to the success of a change management process. To improve your communication skills, attend networking events and watch inspirational leaders from your industry closely to make note of the language (both verbal and body) they use during presentations/meetings. You can even have a chat with your organisation's marketing team to find out about the correct language you should use in emails and other forms of written communication in order to get your point across clearly.
Adaptability is arguably one of the most desirable skills for C-suite level roles. Adaptable leaders embrace change and seek out-of-the-box solutions to even the most difficult of challenges. They can adapt their management skills to keep their teams and employees focused and motivated during tough periods, whilst also remaining open-minded and positive throughout.
If you feel that your adaptability could be stronger, start by seeing the brighter side of things when projects or meetings don't go quite as planned and consider the positives you've gained. This will help you to reset and reframe your point of view and help you prepare for your next challenge or project, whilst also injecting you with a much-needed dose of optimism. Being willing to make mistakes and learning from them is one of the most effective ways of boosting your adaptability. You can also learn from colleagues that inspire you by asking them questions about the processes and procedures they use and don't be afraid to challenge the way in which certain things are done to spark some friendly debates.