In the past, recruiting practices for top executives simply required the right skills, experience and cultural fit. However, with the vastly changing tech world and the introduction of AI, a far more nuanced approach is needed. It’s incumbent upon companies to know how things have changed and what they should be looking for in order to ensure they continue to thrive and remain competitive.
Previously, transactional industrial skills and good financial acumen were all that were needed to become a senior leader. Today, however, there is a greater focus on organizations being a talent magnet for senior leaders with a strong brand that includes excellent social skills. Much of this has been affected by both the introduction of AI to move away from mundane tasks to more innovative ones, and the fact that this is the first time all five generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z) have been in the workplace at one time.
This new dynamic has also highlighted the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and consequently organizations are under scrutiny round the clock. Leaders are expected to respond to opinions and every facet of the customer experience. This is why it’s essential organizations find leaders who are not just able to be transactional, but can also be transformative.
Today’s leaders need to be brand ambassadors, particularly when most damage to a company tends to play out mostly on social media. Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover or Bud Light’s decision to use a transgender person in their advertising, are two recent examples of how crucial it is to have a leader who can respond to issues, be part of the conversation and control and contribute to the narrative in a way that doesn’t adversely affect a company’s standing and bottom line.
Leaders must also have the ability to really understand and speak to these five generations, effectively inspire and motivate a diverse team, and have the social skills to do so. Those social skills need to go beyond just being able to get along with people. They also have to be active listeners, have a high level of self-awareness and be open and comfortable sharing their shortcomings.
Some top social skills that effective transformational leaders possess: High level of self-awareness, keen sense of listening, effective communicator, can engage, inspire and motivate, genuine desire and curiosity to work with, lead, and engage different types of people, groups, and stakeholders, strong Theory of Mind (TOM) ability.
Attracting these new types of leaders needs to be a priority for companies from the outset and has to be reflected in job descriptions and job interviews. Potential hires should be presented with real problems during the interview process that include them being taken through a real-world simulation. It’s a simple and effective way to see a potential leader’s social skills be put to the test.
However, in order to attract these potential hires and draw them in, companies must be willing to be both transparent and vulnerable. That means sharing their companies’ challenges in job advertisements and on LinkedIn, because doing so is what often attracts top performing leaders who are looking to build a resume that shows a list of diverse problems they’ve solved.
Top leaders are also looking at what a company’s ESG footprint is. What is their sustainability agenda? How can they come in and make a difference in the world? How can they transform the communities they work with? What is the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) visible commitment and results? These are all places where leaders are actively looking to make their mark.
At the end of the day, companies need to work on a three-pronged approach by focusing on how to attract, retain and develop great leaders. They need to ensure their new leaders have not only a strong social skills brand but also have the ability to deliver to a company’s shareholders, their customer base, their current employees, be innovative and a magnet for new talent.
It’s important to remember that in a post-Covid world, people are looking for meaningful work. That’s why companies are investing in AI, so they can take away the mundane transactional tasks from employees and focus on talented leaders doing innovative and transformative work. It’s also why transactional senior leaders need to be socially upskilled & empowered to be transformative. Being a senior leader is no longer about resting on your past success and allowing the competition and competitive talent to pass you by. Companies need leaders who can transform and innovate.
However, once companies can set these clear goals about what they’re looking for in today’s competitive market, they’ll be able to attract the requisite talent. Being transparent about their goals, being credible about their work, being invested in the communities they engage with, and allowing new leaders the white space to be innovative, will keep them competitive and see them move from being transactional to transformative.