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What Does it Mean to be an Executive Leader?

I really like working with executive leaders.

I find them to be extremely bright, quick and challenging.  They don’t suffer fools lightly and I know I will be challenged to bring my “A” game every day if I am going to make a meaningful contribution to their success and to their lives.


So, what does it mean to be an “executive”?  The easy definition is someone who holds a senior leadership position in an organization.  But, the more interesting question is, “What does it mean to be a great executive?”


Here are some of the most important characteristics of the great executive leaders I have known:

  • Intelligent.  Executives are called upon to answer the most difficult questions and solve the toughest problems.  It is their job to define strategy, positioning, branding and direction; issues that will determine the ultimate success of the enterprise.
  • Courageous.  Leadership requires making decisions in the absence of complete information.  Great executives demonstrate the courage to place big bets without certainty.
  • Decisive.  Great executives don’t linger.  They have mastered the concept of “thin slicing” described by Gladwell in his book Blink.  Once they have enough facts, they act.  They know the window of opportunity can be open only briefly and, once closed, can be shut for good.
  • Responsible.  Executives carry the weight of the company’s success on their shoulders every day.  They know the effect of their decisions not only impacts their wellbeing but that of everyone who works for their Firm, vendors and the community.
  • Wise.  Great executives display the insight of knowing the right thing to do even in tough situations.  Wisdom is different from knowledge.  It requires balance, integrity and perspective.
  • Affable.  The pathway for becoming an executive requires letting go of some of the “hard” skills that were so important in establishing one’s career.  More and more, who you know and how you know them becomes the critical skill of great executive success.  Great executives have a broad and deep network of advisors, collaborators and allies who can be called on to assist when needed.


The world needs more great executives because we need leadership to solve the most vexing, challenging and threatening issues facing our communities, nation and world.  Who will create a thriving world economy?  Who will end hunger and poverty?  Who will shape a government that continues to be effective and functional?  Who will effectively address global warming?


My mission is to assist executives in growing their greatness because we need them so very much.  Please join me by passing on my newsletter to all who might benefit.

About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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