What core skills should a business leader have? Everything you need to know before hiring a senior executive

By Robert Half on 10th March 2022

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

We have shared our wide-ranging knowledge and advice on how to successfully onboard executives, but now it’s time to explore what core skills and attributes you need to look for in the hiring process.

Selecting the right executive for your company is an important building block for economic and professional success. A suitable c-suite candidate will be able to bring innovative ideas, energy, strategy and development so that your company can continue to grow and progress.

With such a business critical role, it is vital that you know exactly what to look for in a good senior leader.


Acting on instinct

  • Leadership and appreciation: Once you understand what a c-suite level member needs to bring to the business, you'll know that a good senior leader knows when praise is deserved, but also has a sense of when constructive critisism is appropriate. Though this may seem simple, it helps the process of identifying issues and fixing them at an early stage
  • Fairness: Unequal treatment can create a bad atmosphere. An executive that always acts with the company’s best interests at heart and treats staff fairly is imperative for a good work culture
  • A sense of responsibility: Executives and senior leaders must be aware of the consequences of their actions. This means that they not only have to weigh the impact of their decisions, but also be prepared to take responsibility for them if they don’t pan out 


Organisation and planning

  • Organisation: Of course, a well-organised person is important for any professional role, but a leader needs to be able to coordinate their own work as well as the work of different departments and employees in order to achieve an optimal overall result
  • Analysis: Only those who can collect and evaluate data are able to draw the right conclusions and sequences from it. A board-level member needs to understand how they can measure success and use data to direct the strategy of the organisation
  • Strategy and planning: A clear and focused vision paired with forward thinking can help to react to market developments at an early stage, to protect and grow the organisation. Good c-suite members can determine the path needed to achieve business goals while being flexible enough to adapt it to changing circumstances 

Related: Searching for a new executive? Here is everything you should consider



  • Communication: Clear and appropriate communication across all channels with employees, customers, colleagues and superiors builds a solid foundation for good teamwork and cooperation
  • Transparency: Decisions, data and developments should always be documented and available to those who want to understand motivations or future plans. Secrecy can lead to difficulty amongst the team when trying to complete tasks; it also increases the chance of severe mistakes


Decisions and solutions

  • Decision making: Team discussions are useful, but they will become redundant if they don’t result in a final decision. It is up to the board-level members to make the final call on what that decision should be, and though this can be a pressurised aspect of the role, it is an important one
  • Ability to act: This is the intricate process of turning decisions into actions. Senior leaders need support and trust everyone in their team to execute this well, which is why communication and respect is also important
  • Solution orientation: What needs to be done to complete a task as quickly and easily as possible? A good CxO will have the ability to come up with these answers quickly and logically.

Related: 3 must-have traits to fulfil the role of CEO today


Motivation and resilience

  • Motivation: Senior executives and leaders need to be able to motivate themselves, and all those around them. Raising the energy and morale in the company will bring out the best in everyone
  • Resilience: Resilience and perseverance – especially after setbacks – are among the most important qualities of a good leader. This is the only way they can cope with and overcome the unavoidable challenges and setbacks that are seen in day-to-day business


Finding a manager or leader with the right skills and abilities can be difficult, but looking out for these key attributes will help you to find the perfect fit. If you are in need of some support in your hiring journey, our executive search team can help you find the senior talent you are looking for.  

Robert Half Executive Search specialises in the search for and placement of executive leadership talent across a broad spectrum of function areas and industry sectors. Contact the Executive Search team today to learn more.

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