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7 Critical Abilities Senior Leaders Must Have

I want to address some critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective. The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader?) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses…of which I have many…but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization. All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor, or CEO, and I’ll show you someone who carries…in an organizational leadership sense…a heavy burden. I’ve learned from observation that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not.

A limiting factor in one being qualified for a senior level position in an organization appears to me to be when they lack some of the abilities required of that position. It doesn’t mean all senior leaders excel in each of these…I certainly don’t…but to be effective they must be aware of the need to have these abilities and working towards them.

Here are 7 critical abilities every senior leader must have:

1. Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture

The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization at all times. He or she must learn to think strategically in the moment, realizing that the future of the organization is always at stake.

2. Ability to remain steadfast during adversity 

The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problems. In times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around it look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles surround the organization.

3. Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence 

The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t yet ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information.

4. Ability to fully release control and delegate 

The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust and take risks on others to free the organization to continue to grow. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option.

5. Ability to see all sides to an issue 

The senior leader can’t always side with his or her area of personal interest, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each individual part of the organization.

6. Ability to make unpopular decisions 

The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible for the organization, even when that means the decision will not be popular. This often produces a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position.

7. Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization 

The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader recognizes the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization.

If you don’t have these abilities, don’t quit leading, but recognize an area of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

What is missing from my list? What would you add?