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Leadership traits to reach the top of the corporate ladder

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Nichole Jordan speaking at BB&TThroughout my career, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to leaders I admire and reading their insights about what has made them successful despite risk, uncertainty and change. Some of the best leaders are able to see things differently when they face challenges, which enables them to remain future-focused in trying times. I want to share a few of the most impactful leadership qualities I have observed among clients, team members and corporate boards in a range of areas. What are some leadership qualities that stand out in your line of work?

Be resilient Resilience is a buzzword for good reason. I truly believe it’s the most critical quality for anyone to further their business career – from the most recent round of interns to the C-Suite. When you’re working in the midst of periods of disruption and growth, it’s a lot of change to handle at once to advance your professional career.

To be resilient, you need to be agile and have a focus on where you want to be. A common practice I observed, and practice myself, is to create feasible roadmaps (2 years, 5 years, even 10 years out) and review them quarterly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the most resilient individuals, it’s to not beat yourself up if you find that you’re running behind schedule. If anything, it serves as a test of how nimble you can be. Make adjustments as needed. The best coaches don’t always win the first half, they make halftime adjustments to win the game. By creating a roadmap, you’re already gaining advantage over peers.

Ask Power Questions If you haven’t experienced the takeover of the digital workforce yet, you probably will soon. The more C-Suite capable you make yourself today, the more likely you will be in those positions down the line. Communicate often and listen intelligently. To become a part of the deeper, more strategic conversations at a company, ask the right questions. Keep a close eye on competitor news and announcements, read your company reports and financial statements, and listen closely to what industry leaders have to say. This puts people in a position to ask power questions.

Authenticity By being authentic, you position yourself as more credible – which is the foundation of networking and relationship building. Given the way technology is removing layers of human touch points, it becomes even more important to establish and continually build a network of professional contacts. If you interact with and grow your network regularly, you end up with an ecosystem of trusted colleagues, industry peers and go-to contacts.

Small touch points go a long way. Headed out of town on a work trip? Pick up the phone and call to meet people who live where you’re headed. Scanning LinkedIn on your lunch break? Don’t be afraid to comment on a post or article – even if you’re not close with the individual; that’s the point of LinkedIn! Read an interesting article? Share in a quick email with whomever may find it relevant. Anything that creates a dialogue and keeps your name top of mind is a win. Personally, I strive to connect with 5 people on any given day. Some days will be more, some less. Do what works for you. Find an attainable number and go get it.

Final thoughts A special thanks to groups like BB&T’s Women Information Network for providing me a platform to speak to and hear from employees looking for advice on achieving corporate success. Here’s a quick video including these and other leadership lessons I shared at one of their events.