Definition

executive leadership

Contributor(s): Ben Cole

Executive leadership is the ability of those who manage or direct employees in an organization to influence and guide these individuals. Those leading executive leadership processes typically oversee such business activities as fulfilling organizational goals, strategic planning development and overall decision making.

There are several different types of executive leadership, including servant leadership, authentic leadership and paternalistic leadership. Characteristics of strong executive leaders include accountability, motivational leadership skills, problem solving abilities and extensive job experience in their profession. Strong executive leaders also possess analytical skills to determine how to maximize employee productivity and derive the most business benefit from company resources. To do so, executive leaders will use processes such as company and individual employee performance measurement and risk assessment/analysis. Other leadership traits such as empathy, willingness to collaborate and the ability to listen are especially valuable to successful executive leaders.

Executive leaders usually have a mix of soft (interpersonal) skills and hard skills that are used to inspire employees and leverage their attributes to improve business processes. They also play a big role in developing and exemplifying their organization's corporate culture, including the degree of emphasis placed on various defining elements such as hierarchy, innovation, collaboration, competition, community involvement and social engagement.

Executive leadership for CIOs has become both more complicated and important as new concepts such as mobility, IoT and cloud computing have become vital to business success. Executive leaders must make sure these new technologies and concepts are properly integrated into company processes, and in a way that maximizes their business value while avoiding regulatory compliance or security risk.

Some examples of high-profile, successful executive leaders in recent decades include Apple CEO (and Steve Jobs' successor) Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

There is a variety of leadership education programs designed to promote executive management best practices, including those offered at various large universities. Some notable programs include the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Yale Global Executive Leadership Program.

This was last updated in October 2015

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What do you think are the most important characteristics of executive leadership?
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Understanding the DNA of the team, team empowerment, adaptive culture development for continuous improvement. In brief, invoking senses of team to perform with great creativity and passion, Success is almost guaranteed with such leaders.
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Courage
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Listening. Adjusting. Caring. Leading. Passion and humility help, too.
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Surprised you don't include "vision" in that list.
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