5 Leadership Strategies for C-Suite Executives

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Innovative disruption and constant change are challenges for every business in this digital age of organizational uncertainty. From artificial intelligence to shifting algorithms, technology has irrevocably altered the foundations of the workplace. Where does this phenomenon leave our captains of industry today?

While companies weather these sea-changes, senior executives are embracing agile management styles and reframing the way their companies do business. Business culture and leadership development impact long-term corporate performance, but it’s leadership strategy that drives it.

Whether you’re guiding and managing a team of executives or an executive yourself, as you steer your organization through this new corporate environment, consider the perspectives outlined here.

1. Think Like An Outsider

Ever heard of the outsider’s edge?

This piece of sage business wisdom has many advocates who can explain why your next CEO or C-Suite executive should come from outside your organization. There are sound reasons behind this thinking.

 An outsider comes into an organization with the impartial insights needed for breakthrough moves. Coming from outside the business, they aren’t weighed down by company politics. An external leader is more likely to identify the need for far-reaching strategic moves such as organizational restructuring.

Inertia is the enemy, dangling an old and rigid response – albeit tried-and-true – as a safe harbor just when visionary leadership is needed. Outsiders’ inner agility allows them to embrace the unconventional. But by the time they reach the C-suite, all executives have had to develop a modicum of this flexibility and can cultivate the outsider mindset.

Research has shown that “exceptional CEOs are twice as likely to have been hired from outside the company.”

The outsider isn’t afraid of bold, aggressive tactics. They have the board, their colleagues, and numerous stakeholders to impress.

Inner agility is the emotional and cognitive flexibility needed to step away from stale, old patterns and gain new insights. Anyone can think like an outsider. Mindset is the key.

2. Build Strategic Momentum

Building and maintaining constant strategic momentum isn’t rocket science; it’s a commitment to effectual change. While high-performance executives are known for making more strategic moves during their first year on the job, C-Suite executives with longer tenure are less inclined toward radical action.

As an example, new CEOs can use strategic actions such as deal-making to deliver momentum, although the rate of transactions tends to dwindle after the first year or two. Even simple initiatives, such as a cost-reduction program, are more likely to be initiated by high-performance CEOs.

These missed opportunities can represent significant losses for the company. When businesses follow a methodical mergers and acquisitions program they tend to do better than those with no defined strategy.

For a clear-eyed view of their company’s weaknesses and strengths, high-performance C-Suite executives know that a strategic review will give them a realistic perspective.

5 Leadership Strategies For C-suite Executives


3. Conduct Strategic Reviews

Conducting strategic reviews is an essential factor in mapping out the initiatives and actions that drive a corporate change of direction. Traditionally, the thought of a strategic review is daunting, but the process is key to planning forward strategy.

By analyzing and evaluating the current state of play, executives get the best view of how the business can move ahead. A thorough strategic review will answer the following questions:

  • Where is the business at now?
  • Where can the business get?
  • Where should the business aim?
  • How can the business get there?

Each stage builds on the others. The first step establishes a baseline – what should be done and why. The second step identifies strategic possibilities. In the third step, all or some of these possibilities are chosen for action, and the last step involves developing a working plan to initiate those actions.

Using this information, targets are set, and metrics for measuring success can be defined.

The complete profile of the company is effectively laid bare, giving the executive leadership insider knowledge of the deep workings of their organization.


4. Share Your Vision

Effective CEOs know lasting business performance is driven by a focus on leadership strategy.

With the climate of disruption infiltrating every aspect of corporate culture, tone from the top has become an essential factor. When applied to any company’s culture, tone from the top refers to how well senior leaders communicate their embodiment of the company’s ideals.

By sharing your vision with the people you lead, you translate it into action. Everyone needs a purpose and a vision – inspired employees are motivated employees. They’re no longer just working; they’re working together towards a shared goal.

As a leadership strategy, following a clear vision gives you and your team a benchmark. When anyone asks, “Where are we going?” Your vision gives the answer.

This long-term leadership strategy communicates your vivid, inspirational belief in the future of your organization.

5. Create Balance While Building Culture

Organizational redesign seems to be a vital component of the effective CEO’s toolbox. But high-performing CEOs and C-Suite executives are less likely to wade into management reshuffles early in their tenure. In the light of major strategic reevaluation, significant strategic shifts usually come before any internal redesign.

Because every organization operates within its own context, an effective leader will conduct the vigorous strategic review needed for an informed outlook before committing to a strategic direction. High-performance individuals may set the tone from the top and define the organizational balance, but the strength of the culture will define the elasticity of the organization and its ability to adjust to significant changes.  

While sharing the vision for the company can help bring alignment around the business it doesn’t set the tone for the core values of your organization. Ensuring teams not only understand what you do, but why you do it, and establishing a shared belief system that gives your team a reason to believe is an imperative. When teams have periods of uncertainty, are unnerved by the change around them, it’s their belief in the culture that the leaders set that will help them stay committed to the company and to helping execute the changes.

5 Leadership Strategies For C-suite Executives


The Takeaway

Great CEO and C-Suite executives aren’t born; they’re made. There isn’t a school where you can get an MBA in being a CEO. This is one role where you effectively learn as you go and both prior successes and failures are of equal value.

Writing in Harvard Business Review, Suzy Wetlaufer and Charles M. Farkas point out that “very good leaders repress certain personality traits, or develop ones they weren’t born with, in order to run their organizations effectively.”

The high-performance CEO studies the company’s situation and identifies what the business needs from its leader. They then adapt their approach to the organization they lead. This is the crux of effective leadership.

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Freddie Laker

A veteran digital marketer with experience working with some of the world's biggest global brands. He now focuses on providing interim leadership to PE-backed firms.

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