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The Leadership Skills Companies Want

In this year’s Women on Boards report, Philadelphia’s Forum of Executive Women found that while board seats at companies across the region actually dropped, the portion of board seats held by women have increased by nine percent since 2006.  Over the same time period, the number of top executives who are women jumped by 25 percent.

While the progress for female leaders across the country is slow, there is a growing business case for change.  At Salveson Stetson Group, where we place executives in senior-level roles at corporations and non-profits, a number of our clients have expressed interest in hiring more women into senior leadership positions to diversify their talent pool.

What are companies looking for when they are targeting leadership hires, specifically women?

As an executive search consultant, I hear a common “wish list” when identifying talented female leaders.  First and foremost, candidates need to have a proven track record in managing large, multi-site and global teams.  Secondly, they need to have strong talent management skills as well as possess the necessary emotional intelligence to effectively navigate in their roles.  The ability for a leader to juggle all of these responsibilities across a company is a tall order.

Many emerging female leaders continually ask for advice on ways to accelerate their development.  I have highlighted several recommendations that may facilitate being considered for future executive leadership roles:

  • Take on a stretch assignment.  If your boss is suggesting you move into a role that may sound too challenging, don’t second-guess yourself.  It may be time to move outside your comfort zone.
  • Broaden your background.  Accept roles across functions.  If you have a marketing background, move into a sales, operations, human resources or general management role.  The more diversity of experience, the more attractive you are for future assignments.
  • Volunteer for company-wide committees.  These committees have other cross-functional leaders and employees.  It may potentially expand your connections within the company and expose you to new experiences.
  • Network.  Identify other men and women in leadership roles both within your company and outside of it.  Meet for coffee or lunch and get to know them.  Inform them of your interests.
  • Join a non-profit board.  Align yourself with a mission that you value.  You will quickly expand your knowledge on a different “business” and develop relationships with other leaders.  You also may be surprised by how rewarding of an experience it can be.

Women are traditionally very effective at multi-tasking and getting things done.  To continue the upward trend of more women in leadership roles, it is important for us to occasionally move away from our day-to-day work and build meaningful connections with others.  By focusing on developing companies’ leadership “wish list” skills, women will be able to move the needle a bit faster and shape a more balanced executive suite.

4 Responses

  1. I have experienced this shift towards more female leadership positions in my company first-hand. There is a definite trend developing among top executive search firms. Thanks for the interesting read.

  2. Jessica,

    Thanks for reading and responding to this blog post. We hope that in the future there will be many more women in senior leadership roles who will pave the way for the next generation of leaders.

  3. The manufacturing industry is continual evolving due to globalization, technological changes, desire for more profitability, and efficiency in competition. These changes have created the need to review how manufacturing companies manage their employees. The traditional approach was concerned with only three aspects with linear relationships: Acquire, Engage, and Retain. The current generation of workers and the evolving manufacturing industry trend has made the tradition approach of talent management become less effective.

    For example, many manufacturing companies have downsized their workforce through voluntary exits, but at the same time they continue the difficult task of hiring very skilled labor. As technology improves and the manufacturing process becomes more complex, more and more highly skill workers are needed. Since they are in high demand, the good ones will tend to possess certain qualifications that will enable them excel in their career. These workers are usually well trained, highly skilled, capable of complex trouble shooting, flexible and able to solving problems under minimal supervision.

    After the competitive task of acquiring these people is complete, many manufacturing companies are faced with the dilemma of how to manage them. Many graduates who possess the above qualities belong to Generation Y. These are people born in early 1980s to early 1990s. They tend to be technologically savvy, versatile and would work in a company for only a few years before moving on to another. This is due to their life experiences and aspirations in life e.g. rise to senior level within a short time. This is unlike the traditional workers who are mostly content with their positions and can work for many years expecting a promotion.

    Manufacturing companies are seeing the need to shift their style of talent management. One of the new approaches to talent management that should embraced to ensure their survival in the highly competitive world is the “holistic model”. This model encompasses three major interlocked aspects in addition to the previous three. These are Develop, Deploy and Connect with a strong emphasis on capability, commitment, performance, and alignment. The aspect of connect is important because the Generation Y employees want to work beyond the functional boundaries, they need to be involved in initiatives such as Total Production Maintenance, lean manufacturing , six sigma, supply chain optimization , global sourcing and complex product launches. These initiatives may go far outside the scope of the job description they were hired to do initially. To attract and retain the required talent, the work schedule need to be flexible, concepts such as telecommuting should be embraced so that some functions can be done at home, and the work environment needs to be tech- savvy.

    In conclusion, as the manufacturing industries aim for global expansion, profitability growth, and productivity improvement; the significance of talent management will continue to increase in future because of the scarcity of the talents and aggressive competition among the manufacturing industries globally and within your tightening competitive sphere.

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