Which Executive Traits Do Hiring Organisations Value?

As executive search consultants we are often asked the question ‘what is the current state on the executive labour market?’  Now that we are well into the first quarter of 2014 it is timely to reflect on our observations.

I think most would expect that the challenging economic conditions experienced by many organisations in Australia would be impacting overall demand for executives.  Even organisations that are performing well often comment that ‘we are working harder than ever just to maintain the status quo’.

The demand for high calibre executives is nevertheless relatively constant.  While some organisations may be going through a period of lesser need for external talent it would be inaccurate to say that Australia has an excess of quality executives.  Therefore, it is perhaps more relevant to explore the current trends in skills and capabilities sought by employers. What themes are emerging as we observe boards and hiring executives making decisions about those they are seeking for key functions in their organisations?

Most importantly, organisations are seeking leaders not managers. Some may see this as a motherhood statement but we would argue that based on our current experience, it is certainly true.  With organisations eliminating many middle and upper management roles any new executives/executive position must have immediate and obvious impact. If a role or candidate does not demonstrate a proven capacity to add either to strategic capability, deliver the solution to a major problem or be a revenue enhancer then they will be quickly passed over.

With a challenging economic environment resulting in rapidly changing operating conditions, organisations are seeking executives who can quickly engage with stakeholders.  Communication skills have become an absolute imperative.  Hiring organisations are seeking confirmation that an executive can build relationships and gain credibility ‘up, down, sideways and out’ thereby enabling their teams to operate more effectively, often within matrix and flat organisational structures.

Until relatively recently, Asia Pacific experience was considered a nice to have rather than a must have.  This has changed and even for organisations where offshore operations or customer base is relatively small, it is an increasingly valued executive trait.   There is no doubt that we are in the decade of the Asia-experienced executive.  An indicator of this is that our firm now has 10 affiliated offices across the Asia Pacific region.

Finally, in a world that increasingly appears to have shunned the value of long term business relationships, the trait of authenticity is one that resonates with boards and hiring executives more than ever. Boards are increasingly recognising that authenticity is a quality which is recognisable by both staff and customers and can have a significant impact on the capacity of the organisation to achieve its longer term goals through improved reputation, loyalty and retention.

Does your organisation value or recognise the above qualities in potential executive candidates and do you reflect them yourself?

Rohan A. Carr
March 2014

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