Is Executive Leadership for You?
When you’re climbing the corporate career ladder, at some point, you’re probably going to set your sights on an executive leadership role. The structure of most organisations means that there are a lot fewer executive leadership roles than there are mid-level management roles available, so it’s very competitive.
The role of an executive leader is a challenging and rewarding one, but because it’s so competitive you might wonder, ‘is executive leadership for you?’
To help you answer that question, let’s take a look at some of the key challenges that an executive leader might face:
1: Executive leadership is different from managing
A good executive leader knows that there is a difference between managing a team and leading a team. You’ll need to be able to both lead and manage to achieve success in the role.Managing people and teams is often very much about following processes and ensuring the right outcomes. It tends to lean towards the operational side of things. Managers keep the cogs turning smoothly in the day-to-day running of the business.
Leadership is much more linked to the business strategy and vision. Executive leaders set the direction for others to follow. Instead of following the day-to-day process, they’re looking to the future. Leaders anticipate how existing processes need to change in order to meet business goals. They are people-focused, influencing and inspiring others to achieve business goals.
There’s certainly overlap between managing and leading – and many managers demonstrate great leadership skills every day. However, for an executive leadership role, understanding the difference is vital to success.“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” - Peter Drucker Click To Tweet
2: Executive leaders guide change
Once you’ve identified what needs to happen to bring the business vision to life, it’s the executive leader’s role to guide that change in their organisation.
This is where those persuading and influencing skills become very necessary. Leading change in any organisation can be tough. There are often pockets of staff who oppose or resent the changes, and it’s your job to get them on board. The most successful leaders are able to identify where staff may have a valid point, and what elements of the proposed changes themselves may need to be adapted. Balancing the needs of staff with the needs of the business to achieve a successful outcome can be a tall order, indeed.
You’ll also need to be able to manage internal stakeholders. These are people who don’t fall under your reporting line, but who are impacted by your decisions – including directors. Managing internal stakeholders includes gaining support from other leaders and managers, managing upwards, and getting buy-in for any proposed changes from other departments, groups, or individuals.“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” - George Bernard Shaw Click To Tweet
3: Executive leaders need to stay on top of industry developments
It’s not enough as an executive leader to just know your own organisation inside-out. You’ll also need strong industry knowledge and awareness of what your competitors are up to, what the current hot issues are, and how technology is changing the landscape of your industry.
Depending on the sector you work in, things can change rapidly. Keeping up with all the information you need can be a big challenge, and keeping on top of changing technology can seem daunting at first. Even the political landscape can have an impact on the decisions you need to make.
The good news is that there are various publications that cover the key issues in most industries. So whether you’re an executive leader in healthcare, local authority, retail, or financial services, there are magazines and blogs dedicated to collating all the information you could possibly need. Of course, you’ll also need excellent time management skills to fit in all that extra reading!“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing” - Albert Einstein Click To Tweet
How executive coaching can help
So now you know some of the top challenges, is executive leadership for you?
The challenges facing an executive leader can look daunting to someone outside the role, but the truth is that you can become a great executive leader with great determination, focus and development.
One way to get there – and to thrive in the role is coaching. Leadership coaching, or executive coaching, can unlock your leadership potential.
Many excellent leaders have put in years at a mid-management level in a company before they move into an executive leadership role. But leadership skills aren’t related to a number of years’ experience. They are specific skills that need to be developed and honed over time.
The best way to develop those skills is with practice – and working with an experienced executive coach. Coaching not only allows you to develop your leadership skills with a skilled professional; it also gives you a safe place to have vital conversations about where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and how you can improve.
With nearly 20 years of experience as a leadership coach supporting senior leaders and business owners to excel in their roles, I’ve worked with many leaders to help them achieve the results that matter to them.
I’ll be honest, being coached isn’t always easy. I will challenge you and push you to develop and grow outside your comfort zone – because I want you to feel energised and inspired to achieve your goals.
If you’re ready to step into your success as an executive leader and want to learn more about how I can help you develop your skillset, then book a call and let’s have a chat.
Andrea helps you focus on leading yourself first, so you can be a great leader. Start getting your regular dose of leadership tips and inspiration with the ‘Leadership Breather’ – encouraging you to give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you.