Top Skills Modern Executives Need

Top Skills Modern Executives Need

Executive recruiting is increasingly focusing on finding leaders with skills to lead their organization through change. Learn about the in-demand skills here.

Leaders understand that there is no going backward once an action is taken. One misstep can sometimes have a big impact. One unkind or unfair remark can affect their reputation among peers, employees, and even the public. Organizations today value executives’ soft skills as much as their technical skills and experience. The consensus is that leaders’ personal qualities, mindset, and attitude are critical to organizational success. These are among the key skills that executive recruiting today considers.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to recognize and manage their emotions. They’re also able to tune into the emotions of those around them. This ability allows them to grasp the mood of the organization in order to create a safe and empowering work environment.

Leaders who are emotionally intelligent can perceive burnout, dissatisfaction, fear, comfort, indifference, and tension within departments and across branch offices. This understanding pushes them to take corrective action to quell employees’ concerns, make them feel comfortable taking risks, manage conflict tactfully, or develop performance improvement plans.

Technological Literacy

It’s not surprising that professional search and selection requirements have started emphasizing digital literacy as a must-have trait in executives. A study in Sloan Management Review found that few executive teams are digitally savvy, and organizations that have teams where over half of the members are digitally competent outperform the rest by 48% in terms of revenue and market evaluation.

Another MIT study found that a majority of the boards of companies making over $1 billion in annual revenue weren’t digitally savvy, and that companies with three or more digitally savvy directors reported higher profit margins and revenue growth than those with two or fewer directors.

What does technological literacy, a feature so coveted in executive recruiting, imply? It refers to leaders’ understanding of the potential of new technology in transforming the organization, what advanced technology can be used for, and what its outputs are likely to be. Digitally savvy leaders are able to ask technology teams the right questions and give them clear directions on projects and initiatives.

Good Judgment

Great leaders are known for their good judgment, informed by the breadth and depth of their experience. This quality comes to the fore during challenging times when leaders are facing difficult choices, sailing uncharted waters, or deciding the direction to move their organization in.

Exercising good judgment is about proactively seeking information to get the big picture and proceed with appropriate action. High emotional intelligence is an added advantage as it allows leaders to keep their emotions about the situation in check, build confidence in their people, and communicate change plans effectively.


Taking decisive action, even when it goes against the grain, is yet another trait of the modern executive. In a fast-changing industry and in the face of unprecedented events, courageous leaders stand tall and find opportunities to grow.

Authenticity is a hallmark of courageous leadership. Executive recruiting strategies involve assessing leaders’ self-awareness, transparency, and values to predict their behaviors. Authentic leaders are known to be true to themselves and committed to self-improvement.


The COVID-19 pandemic was a litmus test of organizations’ resilience to endure great challenges. Resilient leaders kept cool heads under pressure and coped with disruptive change to emerge stronger.

Leaders aren’t born tenacious; it’s something they hone with experience. Their ability to navigate crises is a desirable trait and vital to the transformational leadership necessary for growth, improvement, and innovation.

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