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Leadership Matters: Strategies for Building Great Leadership

What do companies need most from new executives? It’s changing.
By Libby Doran, founder, Doran Leadership Partners

No matter what the unemployment rate is doing, the market for great leadership is always challenging. Here at Doran Leadership Partners, we’ve spent more than two decades conducting executive searches for industry-leading companies and nonprofits, and we’ve been busier than ever.

During the pandemic, our team began to observe a shift in what clients need from their new leaders. In response, we compiled data from recent engagements, sorting and filtering for the skills, knowledge and attributes that are currently most sought-after. Our analyses uncovered some interesting trends.

Soft skills carry the day.
In the past, a lot of our clients previously put a primary focus on candidates’ subject matter expertise, functional depth and industry experience. While these are still important, it’s the leadership competencies – traditionally seen as “soft skills” – that differentiate qualified candidates from great leaders.

Three skills stand out.
Going deeper, we looked at which specific leadership competencies are most in demand. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Our clients are seeking strategic and visionary leadership. They know that leaders who can think broadly, anticipate trends, learn from others and embrace data-based decision making will help them to find the very best path forward. By modeling and challenging, these leaders can help their organization develop the strategic chops needed for today’s – and tomorrow’s – market and rally the team toward a shared objective.
  2. Our clients need someone who builds talent. The value of attracting, growing and retaining talent cannot be overstated. Clients across the board are seeking executives who can develop and engage high-performing teams and who can coach other leaders to boost their own leadership capabilities.
  3. Our clients are looking for leaders who can spark collaboration. Especially in our hybrid and remote world, creating an environment that promotes collaboration is more important than ever. Our clients want leaders who can build trust, encourage healthy discourse and cooperation, and build a cohesive culture that aligns everyone toward a shared goal.

These three skills have landed at the top spots on employers’ wish lists for a reason. The workforce is changing, the landscape is shifting, and leaders who can set the vision, inspire and lead organizations and people will make the greatest impact — across industries and roles.

So now what?
If you’re an organization that has focused primarily on candidates’ roles, experiences and qualifications, you may be missing out on leaders who can navigate today’s business challenges and opportunities, break down silos and inspire people to effectively think, work and create together. Investing some extra time to think through which soft skills – or leadership competencies – are most important to your objectives and culture is a step in the right direction. These competencies can be used as a throughline in the recruiting process, from the position description to candidate interviewing to reference checking. They can help you discern which candidates are qualified, and which are truly great leaders.

We’re here to help.
The world of work is clearly going through a significant transformation. It can be more challenging than ever to find the right people for your organization’s needs, today and in the future. You may not know where the ideal candidates are, how to attract them, or how to assess them, and that’s where our boutique firm can help. With nationwide reach and deep relationships in multiple industries, we know how to find the right people for you. And with our working model of deep client partnership, we provide actionable guidance to help you see candidates’ strengths and gaps and to make the decision that’s best for your organization.

Feel free to give us a call and schedule a conversation. We’d love to help.

“Doran Leadership Partners was our top firm choice when seeking a divisional President. Every member of the engagement team lives DLP’s values as they worked with us in completing key stakeholder position scoping interviews, engaging in candidate research and vetting, and ultimately enabling us to select the right candidate. Trusting their proven process, we were able to fill an executive role in 60 days!”

Eric Dettmer, CHRO, SitelogIQ & Kelly Schuller, COO, SitelogIQ

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