How to be a successful corporate leader

Executive Search Dublin

Irish Independent – Harty International Article 10th April 2014

John Harty – Published 10 April 2014 02:30 AM

Everyone knows the expression ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’. A similar adage may be used in the corporate world too – behind every great business there is a great leader. It is the leaders who give a company direction; who motivate and inspire the workforce; who, even in the face of adversity, see opportunity. Over time, you start to notice commonalities among those contending for top positions. Whether you’re an owner-manager or the chief executive of a PLC, there are certain traits that are common among the greatest leaders.

1 Strategic Vision

While strategy has always been a priority for CEOs and successful business owners, it plays a far more important role today than ever before, thanks to the recent economic downturn, the faster pace at which consumer trends are changing and the way technology is impacting on the way we buy. Great leaders are the ones who can envision the future needs of their business, employees and customers. With a clear vision they develop sustainable and flexible strategies that not only allow them to compete with their competitors but ensure they come out on top.

Put simply, if you’re always playing catch-up, struggling to generate new revenue streams or repeatedly losing market share to competitors then you need to look long and hard at your strategy and establish why it isn’t working.

2 Passion & Drive

One of the more obvious qualities of all great leaders, from Steve Jobs to Brian O’Driscoll, is their passion for what they do and their ability to drive it forward. Building on my first point, great leaders have the ability to take their vision and turn it into a reality. Most importantly, this passion is contagious. When you are truly passionate about your business, you will inspire your employees, in the way that you act and speak about it, to support your vision and ensure it comes to fruition. Try to name one great leader that wasn’t passionate about what they did. As Simon Sinek would say, it’s not what or how you do it, it’s why you do it that people buy into.

3 Ability to Delegate

No man, or woman, is an island. This is especially true in business. Every CEO depends on his or her executive team as much as every good business person relies on their department heads. Equipping yourself with a team of people, with specialist skills in particular areas of business, be it finance, marketing, operations or technology, is essential to creating an organised and efficient business. If you don’t learn to trust your team with your vision, it is unlikely you will ever achieve greatness. Delegation builds trust between you and your staff. It gives a sense of ownership and responsibility. Most importantly, it frees up your time to focus on the higher-level tasks that should not be delegated.

4 Communication

The above three points talk about strategy, driving it forward and assigning tasks to your employees so that it is implemented correctly. However, none of this is possible if you can’t communicate with your staff. It sounds like a no-brainer but all too often the “what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it” can be lost in translation, leading to a number of problems for your business. A recent study carried out by the University of Technology in Sydney found that only 29pc of employees could clearly identify their employer’s strategy from among six choices. True leaders take the time to clearly express their strategic vision so that employees can confidently ‘action’ their parts. First and foremost, they create alignment at the senior-most level, ensuring clarity on their most important strategic priorities. You cannot afford not to spend that time to ensure everyone is fully aligned and focused to gain market share, increase margins, increase efficiencies.

5 Confidence

If the past six years have taught us anything, it’s that things aren’t always going to go according to plan. This is true with any business, large or small. Even in times of adversity, great business leaders remain confident, assuring everyone that they will see things through and that they’ll come out stronger than ever. A CEO or business owner’s employees will take their cue from him or her and by remaining calm and confident they keep the team feeling the same. So even when the chips are down, be sure you exude a level of calm, controlled confidence and encourage your staff to keep working and moving ahead.

John Harty is managing director at Harty International, an executive search firm with offices in London & Dublin www.hartyinternational.com

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John Harty is a Senior Client Partner based in the Korn Ferry Dublin Office. Operating internationally, he is a core member of the firm’s Global Financial Services practice and leads Financial Services in Ireland.