One of the most popular aspects of my company’s group coaching program, Next Levelfor high potential leaders, is the senior executive guest speakers who come in for a lunch-time “what I’ve learned” conversation.
We recently hosted an executive who’s responsible for about a billion dollars of annual revenue in his company. He had some very solid and practical rules about what it takes to be a successful senior leader.
Here are four of his leadership rules of the road:
1. You’ve got to be talent-oriented. If you’re not, you’re eventually going to crash and burn. Remember that people vote with their feet. The A+ people can work wherever they want. In 2011, they’re not loyal to the company, they’re loyal to the people they work with.
2. Discipline yourself to be an information-eating machine. Read the major newspapers (or their web sites) every day. This executive’s favorites are The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Both are good choices. I’d add the Financial Times to that list.
Your clients and competitors are on the front page of the WSJ or the business section of the NYT. You’ve got to know what they’re doing as they’re doing it. Subscribe to and read the daily e-mail topical or industry newsletters that apply to your space. Run monthly research projects on emerging trends or buzzwords in your industry. Scour the web and become a mini-expert on those topics.
3. Develop your style by observing others. Executive presence is one of those terms that is often used but is rarely clearly defined. One of the best ways to develop your executive leadership presence or style is to observe others who seem to have it.
Look closely at their behaviors and develop your own personal style based on what you see. That will almost certainly include a degree of situational awareness that incorporates the flexibility to move away from your plan or your PowerPoint deck based on your read of the situation.
4. Understand where others are coming from. The top leaders in business or government are usually scheduled all day down to the minute and usually have only a few moments as they’re walking to a meeting to get briefed by a staffer on what they have to do next. The big question they’re asking is, “What do I have to decide in this next meeting?” Make your decision points clear.