Executive Leadership

"Executive leadership" may sound like an obvious and hardly novel idea; after all, leading is what executives do, e.g., through executive decisions. Yet, like political leadership, executive leadership comes in varying degrees of excellence (and incompetence). Executive leadership programs and studies are designed to identify and cultivate the traits, skills and values that outstanding executives display in their roles as organizational leaders.

At the heart of this concept is the idea that even if leaders are born, not made, they can be made better, through formal training, studies and guidance. Closely allied with this belief is the understanding that leadership is multi-dimensional, comprising many factors in many domains, e.g., innovating, delegating, time management, negotiating, team building and presentation skills.

Part art, part science, the cultivation of executive leadership requires a broad and integrated understanding and management of its elements-often achieved with the assistance of expert advice.
A capacity for executive leadership capacities can be innate-or at least presupposes some innate leadership qualities. But being a "natural-born" leader in one domain does not guarantee a good fit in every domain, e.g., band leader vs. platoon leader. Hence, executive leadership as a distinct priority and training focus within business organizations has evolved into a consultant specialty. Among the myriad identifiable, develop-able arenas of executive leadership are:
  • Change Management
  • Character
  • Collaboration
  • Credibility
  • Crisis Leadership and conflict management
  • Decision Making
  • Delegating
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Ethics
  • Innovation
  • Mentoring/Coaching
  • Motivating
  • Negotiating
  • Office Politics
  • People Management
  • Presentation Skills
  • Risk management
  • Situational Leadership
  • Staff, policy, and program management
  • Operational sustainability and stability
  • Team-building
  • Technological competencies and management
  • Time Management
  • Turnaround tactics and skill
  • Visionary leadership
(List is an editing and modification of parameters identified here.) The categorization of executive leadership elements and priorities will vary from program to program and from executive to executive, but certain commonalities are evident amid the variety, including:
  • motivation to benefit both the executive leader and the parent organization
  • the belief that leadership can be developed
  • the expectation that developed leadership skills will, in fact, be mutually beneficial to executives and their organizations
  • establishment of developmental and performance goals
  • measures of leadership coaching and training outcomes
  • commitment to a collaborative approach to executive leadership development.
Many such programs are university-affiliated, e.g., Duke University, Wharton and Berkeley, while others are purely business-operated. Often, executive leadership programs are incorporated into other programs, e.g., as adjuncts to advanced business degrees. Others are stand-alone, niche programs provided as professional development assistance.
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