I’ve worked with scores of executives, from small startup leaders to the C-suite of Fortune 10 enterprises.
I’ve noticed a couple of common leadership traits among the clients who have reported groundbreaking, industry-shifting achievements, impressive turnarounds, growth stories, and transformational track records.
It turns out two skills ― which have led to the most noteworthy corporate successes ― are the precise skills that lead to the greatest successes in executive job searches.
They know how to build relationships with the right people
Great leaders don’t do it alone, their teams don’t flourish in siloes, and they know that the right partnerships can lead to victories at scale.
The most effective leaders hit the ground running in a new role by rapidly building relationships across all of the moving parts of an organization as well as externally to build win-win partnerships. They then tap into those relationships throughout their tenure to achieve their goals.
Those same leaders would display cognitive dissonance if they were to approach their job search from behind a screen, hitting “apply” as their best course of action. Their entire leadership career tells them that is no way to turn ideas into strong outcomes.
In addition, how do you think a senior-level team builder would assess your ability to build relationships effectively and exercise strategic influence if you did not build and leverage relationships to get your foot in the door? How much more skilled would another candidate appear who did manage to get referred in?
They know how to prioritize efforts
Leaders who make the biggest splash must say “no” to many good options and courses of action (and disappoint quite a few backers) as they focus their team’s energy and resources on a select few, big-win ideas.
Prioritizing efforts is not without risk, but if it is backed by careful calculation, data insights, and intuition grounded in experience, it is the only risk worth taking.
I’ve noticed this same principle at work in successful executive transitions.
Think about this for a moment. If recruiters and hiring agents at the highest levels of business are also well acquainted with this hallmark of a successful leader, how do you think they would perceive a candidate who is waffling about the career path to pursue? What would be their impression of a candidate whose job search is unfocused and whose resume is all over the place? How much faith would they have in someone who wants to keep all of their options open, in case any one of them might prove successful?
That approach certainly wouldn’t instill confidence in an executive’s ability to prioritize efforts and allocate resources.
Thus defining and then speaking confidently about where you fit into the job market ― pinpointing precisely the type of challenge you are pursuing ― will reinforce that you are a focused and decisive leader.
Putting these concepts to work
As you move through your job search think about what you are communicating both explicitly and implicitly through the way in which you present your candidacy and conduct your search.
Do your resume, LinkedIn profile, and networking conversations communicate a decisive leader? Or do they communicate lack of focus, inability to commit, and no stomach for research-backed risk? Ask yourself this: Would you feel confident in a board meeting reporting to the members and executive leadership team that the strategy you’ve come up with is to keep all options open and hope for the best? My guess is that you would not.
Does the way in which you are carrying out your job search communicate that you are a strong relationship builder with strategic influence? Or is it communicating that you are more comfortable behind a screen and lack the confidence to reach out to people of influence? Are you inadvertently relaying that you would not be the leader who could build relationships to foster collaboration both internally and externally?
In order to be successful in your transition, it is critical that you leverage your prioritization abilities and relationship building skills in your career management ― just as you would in your company’s management.
Narrow down your focus to a carefully defined job target where you are likely to shine as a leader, and then pursue that target with precision focus, allocating all of the resources, leveraging all of the relationships, and exercising all of strategic influence in your arsenal.
Don’t take your leadership hat off when you conduct your job search. Keep it firmly planted and use the same abilities that make you an exceptional leader to find your next leadership opportunity.