5 ‘Must Have’ Factors for Top Executives

By Tom Henschel, Executive Coach/Facilitator. My fellow coach, Courtney, and I wondered what two or three qualities we would consider foundational for an executive in a multi-national firm. She came up with two.

Resilience came first. She said, “Senior executives don’t perseverate. At least the healthy ones don’t. They get over their bumps and bruises pretty quickly.” 

When I asked for an example, she said, “Taking flak during a meeting. That can devastate some people, especially junior people. But a senior exec needs resilience around that sort of thing.” 

“Is it just maturity?” I asked.

“I don’t think so, no. I know plenty of people with a lot of years under their belts who are not particularly resilient. At the executive level, I don’t see many of those folks.” 

Her second factor was influence.

To her, influence included the ability to build strong relationships, the ability to disagree agreeably, the ability to build goodwill.

Courtney and I both coached in this ‘influence’ area of development, so she was singing to the choir. Even so, I asked what she thought the benefits of influence were. 

She said, “You know, at the executive level, the work is complex. You’re going to touch a lot of people. If you can’t build goodwill, build influence, you can’t be effective.”

I came up with three factors. Organization. Scope. Speed of Thought.

Beginning with the first, I said, “I watch high functioning executives move through days that are complex and intense. But they’re organized. Organization allows them to pace themselves. It allows them to keep their commitments. Be punctual. Deliver on time. Organization keeps fire drills to a minimum. That’s helpful behavior for an executive.”  

Courtney added, “Organization is easier if you have a great assistant, too.”

“For sure,” I said. Talking about my second factor, scope, I said, “One way I think of scope is how many people are in your audience. If you were going to talk to the biggest group in your company, how many people could you justify having on the call? 30? 300? 30,000? Heavy hitting executives are comfortable having a really big scope.”

“Which means they need to be resilient!” Courtney tossed in.

“Which brings me to my last point,” I laughed. “Speed of thought. Here’s what I picture. We all are standing on a beach completely covered with shells. Every shell is one of our thoughts. Speed of thought allows me to go from shell to shell quickly. Speed of thought allows me to discern which shells have the most value in that moment. Plus, speed of thought prevents me from getting distracted by the wrong shells. Speed of thought allows me to be mentally nimble and cover a whole lot of shells.”

Courtney and I like our five “must haves” factors for executives: Resilience. Influence. Organization. Scope. Speed of Thought. We wonder what you think.

For more about the “must have” characteristics of top executives and developing your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Tom.