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4 skills that will set you on the path to leadership success

Academic research by the Wharton School suggests there are four basic skills common to the most successful CEOs and company executives. How many of the four skills do you have?

Wharton/University of Pennsylvania studied the behaviour and skills of CEOs and executives from 20,000 companies and found that only 7 per cent had an Ivy League college education, while 8 per cent didn't graduate at all. The research identifies four key skills that are common to successful corporate leaders, which were as follow:

1. Quick decision-making

Wharton's study indicates that CEOs stand out for being willing to make decisions. But it's not just the quality of the decision that counts, it's also being able to take a decision quickly. This involves a certain amount of intuition but also an ability to quickly understand and assess problems and find solutions.

2. Relentlessly reliable

One of the authors of the study, Elena Lytkina Botelho a consultant at ghSMART, says that demonstrating reliability means you are more likely to be hired to a certain role and also that you will perform well in it. She also noted that CEOs who are highly reliable have a strong desire to “be counted on”. Botelho says: “They almost have a desperate hunger to be counted on and pull things together. Interestingly, it shows up pretty early in life sometimes.” She also refers to this as “the mindset of accountability”, which is a key quality for leaders of organisations.

3. Smooth relationship management

Successful relationship management is compared to a conductor of an orchestra, who relates to each musician and understands exactly how they fit into the musical score and how to bring out the best in each player so they play in harmony as a whole. Botelho says: “You’re only a leader if you can get others to follow and bring the whole business or the whole initiative that you are leading to success.” She notes that clarity of purpose and clarity of intent is important so that colleagues know what is expected of them.

4. Adapting swiftly to changing circumstances

The research authors said: “You have to be able to position the business for success and remain vibrant and viable. Adaptability is on the rise as a key CEO behaviour.”


CTMfile take: For corporate treasurers with their sights set on moving up the career ladder to CFO position, this research should help to keep in mind the skills that will impress the board. Some of the skills - particularly reliability and quick decision-making - are important qualities for financial professionals in any case, while corporate treasurers also have to manage a variety of relationships with stakeholders.

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