What are the most important habits and traits of successful executive-level leaders? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Sudheesh Nair, CEO, ThoughtSpot, on Quora:

Plenty of books have been written on successful leadership habits. But as the working world rapidly shifts around us, there are new lessons for leaders looking to succeed in the emerging business environment.

Let's look at the tectonic shifts happening around us, and three traits successful executives can employ to operate effectively in this new world.

A Servant Leadership Mindset

The ratio between knowledge workers to data workers to skill-workers is shifting. In the past, the quantity of skill-workers often determined the effectiveness of business growth. Though skill-workers are still critical today, the success of a business has shifted; now, it is determined by the impact of knowledge and data workers. Leaders must adapt to this new dynamic if they want to engender success for their teams.

Concurrently, demographics are continuing to shift. The children of Gen X are quickly becoming the largest group of workers. For example, nearly 65% of India's population is below 35, while Africa alone has more than 200M people who are between the ages of 15 and 24.

This generation of employees, with different ideals and motivations than previous generations, is driving new paradigms in the workplace. These include:

  1. New management approaches to lead teams filled knowledge and data workers
  2. People work because they want to work on a project or mission, not just because they have to make money
  3. Employee churn will be the most critical make/break for any business, given the frequency this generation changes employers
  4. Attracting, enabling, and retaining talent will become a top KPI for any exec

Thriving In the World of Paradoxes

As the pace of business continues to accelerate, leaders need to be increasingly comfortable managing paradoxes in order to drive the outcomes needed for their teams and the business at large. While these paradoxes change depending on the specific setting of your organization, there are a few I've run into time and time again.

These include:

  1. The ability to deliver bad news early, while also using it to demonstrate a pragmatic approach to solving the problem
  2. Talking big picture without losing sight of the details of execution
  3. The need to experiment, fail, and learn without losing the focus on winning
  4. The power of collaboration and inhibiting decisions through committees
  5. Delegating authority to make decisions, while holding on the responsibilities of those decisions

Always Remain Authentic

In a world characterized by social media, people crave authenticity in their personal lives. The same applies to how they want to engage and interact with leadership in their professional lives. Executives can no longer rely on canned statements and marketing-approved ideas. Authenticity will quickly become a cornerstone of strong leadership in the coming years.

How can leaders be more authentic in their approach to operating a business? You'll need to adapt your personal style - after all, no one can tell you how to be authentically you - but there are some general guidelines that can help, such as:

  1. No single person can be always right in a world that's always changing - and doing so quickly
  2. Rally around your team, and lift them up when they fall. Equally important, allow them to lift you up when you are the one who failed.
  3. Don't think of strength and vulnerability as mutually exclusive
  4. Share insights and patterns others may not see, while focusing on bringing people together to optimize execution

Each leader will need to continually evaluate their own performance, approach, and role as the world around us continues to change. At the end of the day, a good leader has to be secure enough to stay in the shadows to create heroes instead of hogging the light.

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Published on: May 13, 2019