Executive leaders set the vision, strategies and expectations to ensure their organization achieves its goals. However, executive leadership is about far more than just a job description; these high-level roles also demand a wide range of expertise and experience.

A Changing Marketplace

Although the job outlook for top executives is comparable to the average growth of most other occupations, the skills that executives need to be successful are constantly evolving.

According to Cowen Partners Executive Search, companies are currently seeking executives with a history of strong leadership throughout turbulent economic times. They are also increasingly focusing on important employee concerns like equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDIB), the role of AI in business, and flexible policies around remote work. 

As technology and society continues to grow and change, executives need to be adaptable, agile, and forward-thinking to keep pace with an ever-changing market.

Executive Expertise and Why It Matters

Executives — and those who aspire to become executives — must meet rigorous standards to ensure the success of their organizations. With these standards comes the need for expertise in every area of their business.

From communication to negotiation, and from marketing to business strategy, an effective executive understands what it takes to achieve results.

What skills should executives focus on?

Along with intimate knowledge of their chosen field or industry, executives need to develop key skills like decision making, strategic thinking, and emotional intelligence. Other important skills include:

It is crucial to hone these skills, as well as continue to learn new ones, to optimize core business competencies and drive positive outcomes. 

How can emerging executives develop these skills?

Seeking out professional and executive development opportunities is in the best interests of executives and their organizations.  

These professional development opportunities can come in the form of classes or workshops, training programs, mentorships, attending industry conferences, or earning a certificate to expand your knowledge. 

Finding the right leadership development program is all about identifying your professional goals and aiming to close potential gaps, whether in your skill set or in your overall industry knowledge.

Taking what you learned from your professional development experience back to your organization can help to create a roadmap for future success and inspire your team to take the same initiative.

How can executives can set a standard?

As one of the leaders of your business, you are also responsible for setting the bar for your team to strive for. Demonstrating a commitment to improvement and continual development as you advance through your career shows your employees that you are consistently seeking out opportunities to grow. 

Making the Transition From Middle Management to Executive Leadership

If you are looking to advance your professional journey, navigating the transition from middle management to executive leadership can be daunting.

However, there are plenty of ways to find the right program to achieve your goals. One pathway is to pursue an intensive course that offers a range of essential skills needed to advance your career outcomes, taught by business industry leaders.

Sharing what you learned and how you plan to implement those learnings to the executive leadership team can also go a long way in showing that you are ready to take the next step.

Executive Leadership Challenges

Common executive leadership challenges include change management, retaining, recruiting, and developing talent, addressing conflict, and fostering a harmonious work environment. Other unforeseen events like 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic or disruptions to the supply chain can strain even the most stable companies. 

Without experienced guidance, it may feel overwhelming to try to address these issues, but a dedication to learning new skills is one of the first steps to leveling up your career. 

The next step is finding executive coaching and education courses that will help you to optimize your work and accomplishments, and become the best you can be.

How Can Harvard Help?

Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers dozens of courses through Professional & Executive Development. No matter your unique needs, Harvard DCE is here to support leadership teams with multiple course formats, course lengths, and program date options. 

Each course is taught by exceptional instructors and presents exceptional network opportunities.  

Explore your options and register today!