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Success in the C-Suite In The New Millennia

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/02/2016 Jeffrey Hayzlett

Change is everywhere and the c-suite is no exception. There are new technologies, new styles of management, a new set of skills that need to be cultivated -- all in the effort of improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness. As a result, changes are being made in c-suite and boardrooms across America.
As I travel the country for a number of business opportunities, I'm noticing these changes taking place -- not just in boardrooms in Fortune 500 companies, but in small and medium-sized businesses as well. How we do business is evolving and every company needs to adapt to theses changes, or they might not be in business for long.
Sometimes, changes start at the top, and for some, the c-suite represents the pinnacle of their career. A place you want to be because you worked your butt off for it. But what does it take to reach the c-suite? It takes a special set of skills, that as a result of changes in the business world, have had to evolve over time. I'll break down a few skills that I feel are needed if you're going to succeed in the c-suite of the new millennia.
Leadership and Integrity
These seem like a no-brainer to many, and like they say on TV, 'but wait, there's more.' What type of leader do you want for your c-suite? An older, stodgy, buttoned-up kind of person who will maintain the status quo? A jeans-wearing, tech-savvy millennial? Someone who takes charge or someone who inspires leadership?
The first question you need to ask yourself is what are my company's needs? How will your company adapt to the ever-changing consumer demands? Once you take stock of that, you'll know what the right leadership for your company will be. In the past, technical expertise was paramount, but now it's more about leadership skills than technical ones. If your company is planning to go down a different path, you need visionary leadership that not only knows how to create that vision, but also implement that new strategy. Basically, they need to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Whatever your company's leadership style is, make sure there's plenty of ethical leadership in your c-suite. Integrity and ethics are the one constant that's cross-generational and across every industry. If there's one thing that does trickle down is ethics. If you want to set a good example, it starts with the leadership team up top.
Strategic Thinking and Communication Skills
Not too long ago, businesses had borders. Now, we are a global society and those lines have been blurred. Strategic thinking on a global scale is often one of the most sought after qualities for c-suite executives and this type of thinking calls for the ability to seamlessly execute a vision through a multitude of platforms and levels.
What happens next? You have the vision, now it's time to communicate it. If your investors, clients or employees don't understand your vision, you're not being that effective a communicator. You must have an outstanding ability not only to present your ideas, but also to communicate them. Your ability to strategize and communicate should transcend your audience -- from fellow executives to the guy in the mail room.
C-suite executives need to possess the right level of conviction to present their ideas. If you don't fully believe in your idea, you're playing a losing hand. Not to mention you're wasting people's time and costing them money. Anyone can read from a PowerPoint presentation, but if your audience can't connect the dots, you're not going to be in c-suite for long -- or even get there.
Technical Skills
I mentioned before, technical skills used to be one of the most sought after qualities a few years back. Now, while still important, they are more of a given than a skill to possess. Up and coming millennials (and even the next generation -- Generation Z) are very well versed in technology. They know all the latest tools and gadgets and are not afraid to use them. The rest of us have to catch up! A c-suite executive worth their salt needs to also have a clear understanding of not only how technology works, but how it impacts the organization and how they can capitalize on it in order to have a positive impact on the company's growth.
Diversity isn't a skill per se, or something you put on a resume, but you must surround yourself with people who are different than you -- if you're to understand a myriad of situations/points of view. And sometimes, those people happen to be women.
If you're a smart leader, the women in your organization must play a key role (and not just in HR or marketing). I'm sure you're aware of the recent Petersen Institute for International Economics study stating that almost 60% of firms globally had no female board members and just over half had no c-suite executives. Those numbers are changing. The study shows how companies are increasing their profit margins when more women are in positions of power. One interesting stat the study cites is that going from having no women in corporate leadership (CEO, board members and other c-suite positions) to a 30 percent female share is associated with a one-percentage point increase in net margin -- translating to a 15 percent increase in profitability. If you're a numbers person, that's all the proof you need. Numbers don't lie.
However, diversity doesn't exclusively mean different genders. Diversity also translates to surrounding yourself with people that know what you don't know, or know it better than you do. If you're going to be an effective c-suite leader, you must admit that you don't know what you don't know and that everyone brings something to the table. Your team should be like the Avengers - a collection of super heroes (or just great colleagues/employees) that have, and excel, at certain skills. Individually, they're brilliant enough. Brought together they are an unstoppable force.
Be Authentic
We've already established that your ethics should be unquestioned. However, you must be authentic, too. That will be the key to your success. Everyone can spot a phony from miles away and no one wants to deal with a phony. Life, and business, is hard enough as it is. I am a firm believer that you must be authentic in every part of your life, whether with your peers in the c-suite or at home with your family.
Authenticity helps establish trust. When you're authentic, people tend to trust you and when that trust is established, no one second-guesses your motives. We've been conditioned, as business leaders, that being our true selves at work is risky. To me, being two different people is exhausting! Just be you. Your peers will trust you, your employees will trust you and your leadership skills will be elevated as a result.
If you're looking to take the proverbial elevator to the c-suite, you need to take stock of your qualities and what you bring to the table. What type of leader are you? What don't you know now that you should know? If you're honest with yourself, have the right attitude and are willing to work hard, the c-suite will be yours.
If you're a c-suite leader looking to apply these principles or would like to learn more about leadership in the c-suite, visit:

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