Executive Leadership Skills: Essential Traits for Every Leader

executive leadership skills, leadership skills, leadership development

Unlocking the Secrets of Effective Leadership Skills: Mastering Executive Leadership

Executive leadership skills are what make leaders stand out and if you've ever wondered what makes a leader truly stand out, you're in the right place.

In a world where leadership can often seem like a mystery, we're diving deep into the science-backed qualities that set true leaders apart. From understanding human behavior to recognizing the patterns that define successful leadership, we're exploring it all. This isn't just about being in charge; it's about inspiring, motivating, and making a real difference.

The impact of effective leadership can't be overstated—it transforms teams, companies, and even entire industries. But can anyone learn to be a great leader?

Stick around as we answer this and more, unraveling the secrets behind the art and science of executive leadership skills.

Essential Executive Leadership Skills

Leadership is not just about having authority; it's about how you influence and inspire those around you. To truly excel in leadership, there are several key skills and strategies that one must embrace. Let's take a closer look at some of these essential skills that can elevate your leadership to new heights.

This is where executive coaching comes in and makes leaders that stand out

The Power of Small Requests in Leadership

One fascinating aspect of leadership is the ability to get people to buy into ideas, even those they might initially resist. This is where the power of small requests comes into play. A study by researchers Jonathan Friedman and Scott Frazier sheds light on this phenomenon. They found that by first asking individuals to agree to a small request, such as placing a tiny sign in their window, they were more likely to agree to a larger request later on, like placing a big sign on their lawn. This strategy works because it makes people feel helpful and agreeable from the outset, creating a psychological openness to bigger requests down the line. As a leader, leveraging this tactic can help you inspire your team to take on larger challenges by starting with smaller, more manageable tasks.

The Pygmalian Effect and Its Role in Motivation

Another critical skill in leadership is the ability to motivate those around you without resorting to monetary incentives. This is where the Pygmalian effect comes into play. Research has shown that social rewards, such as praise, are incredibly effective in motivating people. This is because when you assign someone a positive label, like "highly intelligent" or "a good person," they are more likely to act in a way that lives up to that label. This phenomenon highlights the importance of recognizing and vocalizing the potential you see in your team members. By doing so, you not only boost their morale but also encourage them to achieve greater heights.

The Balance Between Logic, Intuition, and Emotion in Leadership Communication

When it comes to communication, the world's greatest leaders know that it's not just about logic and data. A study by Quantified Communications analyzed the communication patterns of global leaders and found that they use a blend of emotion, intuition, and logic. However, appeals to emotion and intuition were significantly more prevalent than logical appeals. This suggests that to truly connect with and persuade your audience, focusing on emotional and intuitive language can be more effective than relying solely on facts and figures. As a leader, developing the ability to communicate in a way that resonates on an emotional level can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Seat at the Table

Lastly, an often-overlooked aspect of leadership is the physical space in which interactions occur. The choice of where you sit in a meeting, for example, can have a profound impact on the dynamics of the discussion. The most powerful seat is often at the head of the table, facing the door, allowing you to see everyone who enters. However, depending on the context of the meeting, you might choose a different seat to convey a different message. Understanding the psychological layout of a room and how your position within it can influence perceptions is a subtle yet powerful leadership skill.

executive leadership skills

Avoiding Pitfalls and Enhancing Leadership Performance

Leadership is not just about the skills you employ to motivate and inspire; it's also about the pitfalls you avoid and the mindset you cultivate. Understanding the concept of 'empty calorie time,' the importance of asking behavioral questions, the role of fear in setting goals, and the negative impact of revenge on leadership can significantly enhance your performance as a leader.

Avoiding 'Empty Calorie Time'

Executive leadership skills requires an understanding of the 'Empty Calorie Time' concept. Just as our bodies require nutritious food for optimal health, our minds need meaningful activities to stay sharp and focused. The concept of 'empty calorie time' refers to periods spent on activities that neither benefit us nor contribute to our goals—essentially, mental junk food. Leaders understand the value of their mental energy and are judicious in how they spend it. They avoid wasting time on activities that don't serve a purpose, such as mindlessly scrolling through social media or watching TV without engagement. Instead, they opt for activities that replenish their mental reserves, like meditation, exercise, or engaging in a hobby. This mindful approach to managing mental energy not only prevents burnout but also ensures that leaders are always operating at their best.

The Power of Behavioral Questions

Great leaders know that the key to understanding people—whether they're team members, clients, or partners—is asking the right questions. Behavioral questions are a powerful tool in a leader's arsenal because they reveal much more than surface-level information. These questions are designed to uncover an individual's personality, motivations, and values by asking them to reflect on past experiences and hypothetical scenarios. For example, asking someone about a belief they used to hold but have since changed can provide insight into their capacity for growth and adaptability. Similarly, inquiring about someone's best and worst days at work can reveal what they value in a professional environment. By incorporating behavioral questions into your interactions, you can gain deeper insights into the people you work with, leading to more productive and meaningful relationships.

Embracing Fear in Goal Setting

It might seem counterintuitive, but a little fear can be a good thing when it comes to setting goals. The idea here is not to be paralyzed by fear but to use it as a motivator to push beyond your comfort zone. Research suggests that goals which make us slightly anxious because they're ambitious or challenging can actually lead to greater satisfaction once achieved. This is because these goals force us to stretch ourselves, learn new skills, and ultimately grow as individuals. When setting goals, aim for those that are just out of reach but still attainable—with about a 60% confidence level in your ability to achieve them. This balance between ambition and realism can help you set goals that are both motivating and fulfilling.

The Destructive Nature of Revenge

Finally, one of the most toxic pitfalls a leader can fall into is the desire for revenge. While it's a natural human instinct to want to retaliate when wronged, acting on these impulses can have detrimental effects on your leadership and your organization. Studies have shown that decisions made out of a desire for revenge often lead to negative outcomes, such as financial loss or damaged relationships. Instead of succumbing to vengeful thoughts, effective leaders find ways to move past them. This might involve gaining perspective by considering the bigger picture, writing down feelings of anger to process them healthily, or focusing on constructive solutions rather than retaliation. By avoiding the trap of revenge, leaders can maintain their integrity and focus on what truly matters—leading their teams to success.

Leadership Development: How To Become A Strong Leader

How can you become a strong leader who inspires others, drives people toward excellence, holds people accountable, and instills a sense of trust? Learning what makes a great leader is your first step.

Here are some things you can do to become the leader you've always wanted to be:  

  1. Control yourself. Every great leader in history has had to become a master of self-discipline and willpower in order to stay focused on the big picture. If you don't have a goal or the drive to achieve it, you can't lead others to attain theirs.  
    • Follow through in everything you do. As challenging as it may be, you need to be disciplined enough to be where you need to be, when you need to be there, whether you want to or not. By being strong in your resolve and resisting temptation to give up, you are setting an example for others to live up to. 
    • Choose your emotional response to a situation carefully. Sometimes you'll need to practice the art of silencing your inner thoughts when they're not appropriate in order to set a positive example. 
  2. Project your goals. If the people you're leading don't completely understand the deeper meaning in their work, they won't share your vision or work ethic. Every step of the way, communicate with your team to make sure they're on the same wavelength and know what you expect of them.   
    • Get your team involved in the planning process and the implementation of your ideas. This gives everyone a greater sense of ownership toward the end result. 
  3. Praise highly and criticize constructively. The way you praise and criticize others can make all the difference in being able to lead effectively.  
    • Make sure you publicly praise the people who do excellent work for you. You'll give the person a sense of accomplishment and the drive to do even better. 
    • When someone does something wrong, offer constructive criticism and do it privately. Suggest solutions on how they can improve and take the time to answer any questions. They'll accept your input more willingly if they know it's done to help and not to harm. 
  4. Know your people. You can't truly lead a group of people unless you truly understand their hopes, dreams, struggles, pains, and goals. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing unless you have a true sense of the people you're working with.  
    • Talk to your team and get to know them. Getting to know each other on a personal level will strengthen the bond between you. They'll want to do better for you because you're more than just a "boss."
    • Be their leader, first, and their friend second. You're their leader and that means that you have to make difficult decisions from time to time. These decisions cannot be affected by personal relationships. 
  5. Make the hard call. There are times when you have to bite the bullet and make some unpleasant decisions. Firing, demoting, and holding people accountable for their actions can be very

Wrapping It Up

As we come to the end of this exploration into creating executive leadership skills, it's clear that the essence of true leadership extends far beyond simple directives and decision-making.

  • Leadership is deeply rooted in understanding human behavior and leveraging small steps to inspire greater commitments.
  • Effective leaders prioritize emotional connections and intuition over pure logic, recognizing the power of praise and positive reinforcement.
  • Non-verbal cues, including the strategic use of body language, play a critical role in establishing a leader's presence and influence.

But with the emphasis on non-verbal communication, one might wonder, how do leaders balance authenticity with the strategic use of body language without coming across as insincerate? Until we meet again, let's ponder on that.

A leader is not born. A leader is created and the whole process starts inside the most dangerous place you'll ever encounter - your own mind.

Regardless of where your leadership role takes you, believe that you can be a strong leader. Remember that in order to lead others, you must be disciplined yourself. After all, your actions will speak louder than anything you can say. In order to gain the respect of others, strive to lead by example in every area of your life. When you follow these simple guidelines, you'll be well on your way to becoming a true leader!

Your online life and business coach, Sharon Lee

Author Bio

Founder of Fearless Pursuits, LLC, the life coach blog, and The Daily Shift. I empower individuals to overcome challenges, nurture empowering habits, and elevate their confidence. As a WHOLEistic online life coach, I specialize in creating mindset shifts, for sustainable change. As your guide, you'll embark on a transformative journey to unlock your full potential, destress, and achieve the success you deserve. Get ready to experience life-changing coaching that leads to remarkable results.