July 12th, 2022

Surrounding yourself with a network of fellow women in executive roles you can learn from is one way to harness C-suite skills. However, it takes an intentional approach to develop some critical skills needed to thrive in C-suite roles. 

This is especially true when you consider the current business landscape. C-suite executives report organizational complexity, inadequate skills, and burnout as being the three most significant issues they contend with today. These challenges call for special C-suite skills to help an organization pull through challenges. 

Let’s look at how to thrive in the C-suite with these top seven executive skills. 

1. Leadership

Leadership skills are not just for CEOs. These skills are also critical to other roles in C-suite. The leadership skills needed to succeed today have shifted significantly, even from a couple of years ago. Fortunately, “leaders are not born, they are made,” and you can start harnessing this skill today.

For instance, women in a C-suite position need to possess high emotional intelligence. At its core, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to be aware of your emotions and those of others. 

EI is paramount in building a culture where people can be their authentic selves. Remember, there’s some truth in the decade-old phrase, “people leave bad bosses, not jobs.” By being more empathetic in your interaction with employees, other C-suite members, partners, and board members, you foster a culture of trust and respect for others.

Take-charge leadership is another facet to work on as a C-suite executive. If you examine the most influential organizations today, you will find that the business’s leaders are not only visionary — they know how to take charge. Taking charge will encompass tackling new opportunities, inspiring your team, knowing when things need to change, and being focused on bringing about those changes. 

Three things will be vital to thriving in the C-suite as a leader: authenticity, respect, and trust-building. 

2. Strategic Thinking And Execution 

Today’s organizations are wrought with changes, sophisticated technology, and ever-changing dynamics in the labor market. This calls for more strategic business leaders to help their organizations tread through murky waters. 

Strategic thinking means thinking critically, coming up with solutions to organizational problems, and effectively communicating these ideas or plans. In essence, strategic thinking is not limited to the business’s locality; you have to go outside the mold and think on a global scale.

Here at Athena, we refer to this as becoming “overarching stewards of the business.” This is a leader who thinks beyond their technical areas of expertise to steward the company and its strategy. Explore some of Athena’s resources to boost your strategic thinking and execution skills.

3. Technical and Technology Skills 

Subject matter expertise is still as important as soft skills to thrive in the C-suite. It’s important to achieve the right balance of soft skills and hard (technical) skills. This will enable you to help the organization deliver its core business to clients while influencing its culture and building trustworthy relationships. 

Tech savviness is also more important than ever. A recent Forbes survey showed that 75% of CXOs plan to boost their technology investments to enhance cybersecurity strategies, collaboration, cloud, and data analytics. Businesses need C-suite leaders capable of understanding these technologies to help the company transition to the changes. 

In another example, Web 3 is on the horizon, and most businesses already realize business benefits from Web 3. Are you aware of Web 3 dimensions? Do you understand how it affects businesses? Are you aware of the opportunities in this tech revolution that you can help the company tap into?

4. Team and Relationship Building

Another skill C-suite leaders have to master is team and relationship building. Relationship-building is critical regardless of your company’s geography or industry. 

As a C-suite leader, you have to be comfortable working in a team and leading one. You have to recognize team dynamics and know what works and what doesn’t in your teams. 

More importantly, you need to be able to hire and develop an exceptionally strong leadership team. Dealing with people from different schools of thought, temperaments, attitudes, and behaviors is also part of being a C-suite executive. So, you must channel these differences into a collaborative team to drive the required business results. 

5. Communication and Presentation

An ideal C-suite candidate should possess the power of influence and persuasion. You will often present ideas, plans, and changes to the leadership and your teams. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will all agree with your proposals. Resistance will be pretty standard, even if it’s not obvious or announced. In fact, getting your idea across might be more challenging. One study showed that when women gave feedback, they were judged more harshly and seen as more unlikeable than men who gave the same feedback. 

Yet by harnessing your persuasion and influencing skills, you can gain the support of peers and your team. This support will come as a mix of hard data, persuasion, influence, and better communication skills. 

Athena offers visibility opportunities for women in executive positions, helping them establish their thought leadership platform and elevate their presence and presentation skills.

6. Change Management

C-suite leaders must be fueled by a continuous improvement mindset. If there was anything that Covid taught us, it’s that change is inevitable and often unexpected. As a woman in an executive role, you need to be prepared to handle planned changes and unplanned changes such as a ravaging pandemic, fast-moving technology, and many other unknowns. 

Successful change management requires decentralized communication, fostering collaboration, and getting input from all stakeholders in a company. 

7. Integrity

Integrity in any capacity is always valued. A C-suite position is not exempt. Leaders of integrity bring success to their companies. They influence direct reports and foster a culture where ethics are the norm.

In turn, organizations meet their goals, clients are satisfied, and partners are thrilled to collaborate with the company.

But for integrity to take root, you have to be aware of your passions, needs, and preferences and how they influence your integrity. 

As Athena board member Rhonda Mims puts it, “Each of us comes to work with our past, our passions, our preferences, our needs. We also come to work with bias – we all have our inherent biases in the way we see the world and each other. In the professional world, the way we show up affects every element of our careers: that critical first impression, the brand of the company we’re working with, our path to promotion, our credibility, and opportunities for visibility and growth.”

Final Thoughts

As a woman in C-suite, you will be tested a fair amount of times throughout your journey. You’ll also be expected to have or find solutions when things look impossible. To do so, you will have to understand people dynamics and create a culture and environment where everyone is heard. 

To thrive in C-suite, it will take leadership, communication, integrity, and persuasion skills. But most importantly, it takes believing in yourself, forming a network around you of like-minded suite executives, and a positive can-do attitude through all circumstances. 

Athena Alliance provides women leaders with the executive education, coaching, and network they need to become stronger leaders. Learn more and start developing your C-suite leadership skills today.



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