Executive recruiting firm Egon Zehnder International learned a lot while conducting more than 25,000 management appraisals over the course of five years. The company shares its insights in the white paper "The Five Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was Promoted to the C-Suite."
For example, one thing that any new executive would benefit from knowing, or in this case, doing: Improve your leadership competencies. Two of Egon Zehnder's observations in this area jumped out at us.
All good CEOs and COOs excel at 10 core leadership competencies, but truly great executives outperform their peers in different ways. The cream of the CEO crop excels at "customer focus" and "team leadership." Top COOs are adept at "developing organizational capability" and being "results-oriented."
Getting meaningfully better at any of the 10 fundamental competencies is very hard--so hard, in fact, that it takes a year to accomplish. "And," the Egon Zehnder report notes, "it's difficult to focus on more than one competency at a time."
The fundamental competencies, in Egon Zehnder's parlance, comprise skills and traits that range from market knowledge to intercultural sensitivity.
According to the report, "C-level executives typically have specialist or functional underpinnings and have moved [up] into more generalist roles. But once there, executives should not think that development stops. Almost all leaders have room for improvement. A leader's ability to objectively understand strengths and weaknesses and address performance gaps will in large part determine if an executive will move from good to great. That means improving on leadership competencies."
Apparently, that means narrowly targeting what you want to improve--and then being realistic about how long your improvement will take.
What good CEOs & COOs are good at--and what the best ones are better at
A score of 4.0 is high on Egon Zehnder's scale for measuring leadership skills and attributes (or "competencies," as the company calls them). Good CEOs rate 4.0 or higher across the board. Outstanding CEOs outperform their peers the most in customer focus and team leadership.
Good COOs rate 3.7 or higher in all of Egon Zehnder's competency categories, but their particular strengths lie in developing organizational capability and getting results. Outstanding COOs most outpace their peers in those two competencies.