Making sure the suit fits

SUBTLE BUT critical differences among senior leadership roles that often call for very disparate skills and behaviours are often behind the downfall of successful executives who are promoted to positions that appear to be within their ability

SUBTLE BUT critical differences among senior leadership roles that often call for very disparate skills and behaviours are often behind the downfall of successful executives who are promoted to positions that appear to be within their ability.

Recent research has found that rapid growth, the flattening and thinning of management ranks, shifting business strategies and the growing popularity of more dynamic, matrix-structured organisations have dramatically re-sculpted the topography of executive roles.

As such top leadership positions, despite many similarities, vary significantly depending on the shape of the role, its proximity to business results and the level of operational or strategic focus.

Conducted by Hay Group, research into the competencies and roles of 400 senior executives from top multinationals found that by better understanding the specific leadership role and the competencies required, organisations can effectively reduce their risks and, over time, improve performance.

The research identified three unique role types: operations roles, advisory roles and collaborative roles – each of which requires a unique set of competencies, depending on their focus.

Operations roles are typically thought of as more traditional line and general management positions.

The study found successful operations leaders are intensely focused on results, set challenging goals, establish detailed cost-benefit analyses and aren’t afraid to take calculated risks. They also have a thorough knowledge of their organisation and markets, and are familiar with the challenges, threats and opportunities and are highly flexible in addressing them.

Advisory roles, often labelled ‘professionals’, provide advice and support regarding a specific functional area.

The research found that successful leaders in these roles know the organisation inside and out, and also have great people skills and are adept at combining those skills with their understanding of the organisation to influence others.

Collaborative roles are rapidly emerging as a mainstay in today’s flatter, matrixed organisation.

The research found successful executives in such roles are highly proactive, extremely flexible, tenacious in seeking out information and tailor their influence and communications based on the people, situation, and culture where they work.

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