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20 essential leadership skills for strategy execution

In a recent survey conducted 73% of respondents said that the area where managers needed to improve most was aligning employee goals with those of the organisation. 72% said managers needed to improve their skills in discussing performance and in performance-related decision-making.

Researchers also found that senior leaders tend to think they communicate more effectively and act more consistently than their employees think they do. For example, 81% of surveyed managers told Hay researchers that their actions are consistent with their verbal communications, but only 53% of workers thought so.

Only about 20% of workers say their managers coach them regularly to help them improve their performance, and only about 40% say their manager plays an active role in their career development.

There are many factors which contribute to these gaps. Out of these factors, the most important one we found is the ability and the skill set of leaders to get things done (27 % leaders receive no training on essential management skills)

In this article, we have focused on functional skills essential for strategy execution. The behavioural and technical skills required, we believe have direct correlation to the functional skills required to complete the job on hand.

Here are the 20 skills that are essential for leaders to be better strategy executors;

Customer focus (Keeping the customer in mind and in the center of every decision you make and everything you do at work). Ability to identify the persona of both, internal and external customers. Ability to objectively understand customer needs. Ability to make decisions keeping the customer in mind.

Alignment (Aligning individual goals and obtaining buy-ins across the team on the goals and strategies). Ability to involve team members while setting goals. Ability to cascade and align objectives across the team. Ability to convert goals into specific objectives and doable tasks.

Collaboration (Collaborating with people within the team, different departments, levels of organization, and different offices, different areas of expertise and culture to achieve a common goal). Ability to ensure smooth flow of communication across departments. Ability to collaborate along the supply chain to ensure business continuity, Ability to optimise team collaboration to enhance service levels to customers.

Negotiation (Developing strong interpersonal relationships by creating a win-win for team members, vendors and customers). Ability to evaluate alternatives and find the best route to optimally execute. Ability to negotiate with suppliers to find optimal cost & mitigate supply risks. Ability to negotiate with customers to deliver customer needs without burdening the firm with unrealistic expectations.

Continuous Improvement (Exceed expectation and add value to everything that you do). Ability to build a culture of innovation. Ability to encourage out of box thinking, acknowledging and rewarding innovations. Ability to continuously review and work towards stretch goals and targets.

Risk Management (Commitment to mitigate operational risks). Ability to foresee and manage operational risks. Ability to develop appropriate contingency plans to enable quick recovery and avoid inconvenience to customers.

Motivation (Lead by example and motivating your team to execute). Ability to create an environment where all team member are clear about their roles and their contribution towards a common goal. Ability to promote knowledge sharing. Ability to encourage sharing of ideas and creativity.

Mentoring (Effectively transfer knowledge, be compassionate and achieve team’s potential). Ability to nurture and develop potential leaders. Ability to inspire people through knowledge transfer. Ability to ensure continuous learning to plan succession.

Delegation (Assign work, trust and allow space to perform). Ability to accurately assign responsibility to increase efficiency and drive results. Ability to optimally allocate resources based on individual strengths.

Discipline (Being clear, strong-minded and living the process). Ability to live the values and achieve unison. Ability to execute complex tasks in a systematic manner. Ability to be disciplined and strong minded.

Recruitment (Identifying and deploying the right fit). Ability to identify activities, specific tasks, responsibilities and behavioural requirements for all positions. Ability to analyse, assess and hire the right fit.

Planning and Organizing (Ability to prioritise and work on both urgent and important tasks). Ability to prioritise, conceive and develop plans. Ability to systematically execute plans. Ability to continuously focus on short term and long term outcomes.

Communication (Careful listening, prompt & clear top down communication). Ability to actively listen and get complete clarity from leadership. Ability to communicate complex ideas through simpler understandable language and methods. Ability to ensure the message reaches the last person in the link.

Change management (Open to change, being agile and implement change). Ability to judge the scope, effort and impact of the proposed change across your team. Ability to timely and effectively communicate changes by aligning and getting buy-ins from team members.

Performance Enablement (Enabling and ensuring individual and team success). Ability to clearly define metrics which can inspire and accurately measure performance. Ability to conduct continuous evaluation and enable performance. Ability to provide complete clarity and growth opportunities to motivate and attain full potential.

Agility (Willingness to change). Ability to stick to deadlines without compromising service levels. Ability to clearly understand and exceed expectations. Ability to consistently meet changing customer requirements.

Attention to detail (Quality of work). Ability to collate different points of view and take appropriately steps for thoroughness & accuracy. Ability to plan in relative order based on the importance of tasks. Ability to focus on details while not losing track of the big picture.

Handling Tasks (Prioritising and multitasking). Ability to form and understand a logical sequence of the tasks. Ability to understand the complexity and intricacy of the processes and the criticality of task at hand. Ability to allocate and optimally use resources to handle important tasks.

Managing Initiatives (Seeing new initiatives yield desired results). Ability to accurately forecast the resource requirement and allocate accordingly. Ability to effectively judge and going after initiatives which can add value to the organization. Ability to align new initiative to the company’s value proposition.

Bottlenecks (Ensuring smooth flow to deliver on time). Ability to completely understand the processes and systems. Ability to allocate resources to optimally approach bottlenecks. Ability to avoid resource wastage due to repeat activities.

Metis has developed an on-line assessment tool to assess leaders on these 20 essential skills. The assessment tool is based on situational judgement inventories and direct questioning techniques. This tool can be used to assess incumbent leaders and while recruiting for leadership roles. Do write in to us on or for more details.

Rajesh Athihalli

Rajesh Athihalli

A post graduate in management, Rajesh has over two decades of expertise in the field of strategic advisory. His interventions have helped many organizations across industries and sizes, gain clarity on their mission, vision, goals and go-forward strategies. He is renowned for his objective advice stemming from the specialist skills he brings to the table that is always focused on creation of value, maximization of growth and improving business outcomes. As a successful entrepreneur himself who has founded and built several organizations, Rajesh brings to each engagement the invaluable perspective of an entrepreneur and the applicability of each functional best practice in terms of the positive impact it has over business.
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