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Most Desired Trait by Companies Seeking Senior Executives Is Ability to Motivate and Lead Others

December 14, 2017

Executive leaders, take note. The number one skill that companies and Boards of Directors seek in senior executives is the ability to motivate and lead others, according to a survey of 1,270 business leaders from around the world by IIC Partners, one of the top 10 executive search organizations globally.

By a margin of 3:1, 68 percent of top leaders said they preferred a senior executive who could motivate and inspire others more than they desired an executive who consistently performed well (mentioned by 26 percent).

“The price of entry to the corner office remains competency,” said Paul Dinte, chairman of IIC Partners. “But once there, a leader’s success is more about inspiring and motivating others to perform, rather than what he or she does individually.

“The emerging snapshot of today’s most valued senior executive is not just that of a talented practitioner. Rather, this sought-after executive is very ‘other-directed’ and excels at harnessing the power of others through leadership and inspiration.”

After motivational ability, the senior executive traits most valued by organizations were: strong ability to manage change (51 percent); ability to identify and develop talent (46 percent); innovative thinking (30 percent); and consistent high performance (26 percent).

The survey also uncovered additional characteristics of senior executives and senior executive teams around the globe.

Organizations are increasingly seeking to build senior executive teams that include external candidates rather than only internally groomed talent. The average Senior Executive Team is made up of:

  • 45 percent internal candidates
  • 38 percent external candidates
  • 17 percent from another division within the same parent company

“The trend of hiring from the outside has been going on for a while,” said Dinte. “Global trends in talent management indicate that companies are investing more in grooming internal leaders, and they are doing a better job of onboarding the executives they hire from the outside.”

Companies that were more likely to rely heavily on internal, rather than external, talent were those with fewer than 500 employees, energy and utility companies, and financial services firms.

Organizations around the world have different expectations of how long a senior executive will remain with an organization, but the average is seven years. In the Americas, the expectation was slightly longer (7.9 years), while in Asia-Pacific, it was shorter (5.9 years).

Length of service also differed by industry. Professional services tend to retain senior executives the longest (8.1 years), while the pharmaceutical (5.7 years) and consumer products (6.1 years) industries hold them for shorter periods of time.

“Corporate expectations for length of service may have to be managed when Gen-X employees reach the C-suite, given how much more frequently they tend to change jobs,” noted Dinte.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that gender composition of their senior executive team was either “important” or “very important.”

Those based in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) rated gender composition more important (62 percent) than the overall global response. Respondents from Asia-Pacific were below the average, with only 48 percent saying gender composition was important to their organization.

About the Survey

A total of 1,270 senior-level executives completed an online survey during a six-week period in late 2013.

  • Sixty-two percent of respondents were at the C-suite or Managing Director level.
  • 520 were from the Americas, 383 were from EMEA and 347 were from Asia-Pacific.
  • Respondents came from 18 different industries.
  • Thirty-eight percent were from publicly held organizations, 43 percent were from privately-held firms, eight percent were family-owned, five percent were not-for-profit, and three percent were from other types of firms.
  • The survey was administered by Amarach Research of Dublin, Ireland.

About IIC Partners

IIC Partners ( is one of the top 10 executive search organizations in the world. The network of “Independent International Consultants” is made up of 40 independently owned and managed executive search firms representing 48 offices in 34 countries, all considered to be leaders in the geographic and industry markets they serve.

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