Psychologically, all C-suite executives must overcome these 3 traits

“Emotional intelligence” is a popular buzzword in today’s business climate. Indeed, it is commonly cited as an essential building block of strong corporate culture, and employers often give it just as much weight as “hard” skills during the hiring process.

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LollyKnit via Flickr (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

While prioritizing emotional intelligence can make a big difference when hiring new employees, as a C-suite executive, strengthening your own emotional intelligence quota is absolutely essential if you want your company to remain successful in the long run.

For many executives, this means overcoming certain emotional and mental traits that keep them from performing at their best level. Here are three key areas where all C-suite executives must improve their efforts if they wish to become stronger leaders.

1. A reactionary, short-term focus

The business world is full of constant challenges, and when departments under your jurisdiction are dealing with an urgent deadline or an exciting new product design, it can be easy to narrow your focus on what you view as the most important task.

Unfortunately, taking such a short-term view of things could ultimately cause you and your company to get blindsided by another problem or change in the industry.

An analysis conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that “adaptable CEOs spent significantly more of their time—as much as 50 percent—thinking about the long term,” noting that executives who excelled in this skill were 6.7 times as likely to be successful as their less adaptable peers.

A recent conversation with Max Lock, the 22-year-old CEO of Fleet, shed further light on the importance of developing this long-term focus. “You can’t control every problem or industry change that might come up,” he explained.

 “But you can be aware of the new trends or issues that might create opportunities or trouble for you down the line. When you regularly look over a wide range of data sources, you can find clues as to how you should adapt your business well in advance. If you’re complacent, you’ll fall behind.”

While C-suite executives should never neglect their company’s current needs, they should always be looking toward the future. Learning to identify and even predict industry trends can make all the difference in ensuring a balanced decision-making process.

2. Overly-cautious decision-making

Indecisiveness is a killer of companies big and small. A desire to avoid costly mistakes is understandable, but in today’s world, decision-makers need to lead with confidence and conviction at all times.

This is especially true when difficulties arise within the company. All too often, company leaders give in to the “analysis paralysis” mindset, subjecting an issue to so much scrutiny that a decision is never actually made. In the previously cited Harvard study, an incredible 94 percent of executives who were rated poorly on their decisiveness received their low marks “because they decided too little, too late.”

 “Bad decisions can put organizations in jeopardy for obvious reasons, but delayed decisions can also hurt by losing competitive advantage,” says Joseph Folkman. “Organizations need leaders who can quickly look at the facts, discuss options and make a decision.”

Indeed, in Folkman’s own research, those who were viewed as the most decisive were also viewed as having the greatest leadership potential. This requires a willingness to take calculated risks and the ability to clearly communicate decisions to the rest of the team, ensuring that everyone receives clear direction on how to act.

3. Pride

While confidence is vital in the decision-making process, allowing that confidence to turn into pride can ultimately be just as deadly for your company — and your career. Pride can cause you to dismiss information or suggestions that run counter to your own assumptions. It can even cause you to mistreat members of your own team.

Instead, C-suite executives need to be willing to accept that they don’t know everything. In other words, they need to be humble. They need to be willing to listen to their employees’ needs and suggestions. They need to admit when they make mistakes. Perhaps even more importantly, they need to allow their team members to complete their work without being micromanaged.

Research has consistently found that humility in leadership leads to better decision-making and improved employee engagement. A study from Administrative Science Quarterly found that humble leaders empower their employees in a way that also improves commitment to the company, thereby reducing turnover and increasing overall productivity.

Humility won’t just help you be more open to the data that will help you make smarter decisions. As you develop this attribute and improve the way you treat your employees, you’ll ultimately be able to increase your company’s profitability by creating an environment where they enjoy coming to work.

A powerful influence

Company culture, the attitude and work ethic of your employees and even your company’s overall growth all stem directly from your influence as a C-suite executive. It takes more than being a hard worker to achieve the right results in these areas.

As you make a conscious effort to overcome negative habits and improve your own soft skills, you’ll be better positioned to provide the leadership your company needs.

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