Management candidates must know how to motivate others, survey says

If you think you are management material, make sure you know how to motivate others. That’s not to say that technical expertise and strategic thinking are not valued, but research shows a top management candidate needs to be more than the smartest person in the room.

Motivational or leadership skills were the most important factor cited by advertising and marketing executives when promoting professionals to management positions, according to a survey by professional placement firm The Creative Group.

Other data, some of it finance-specific, show that leadership skills are important for those wanting to move up the ladder to a controller, CFO, or chief executive position.

In The Creative Group’s survey, 53% said they looked for candidates with strong motivational or leadership skills, followed by 19% choosing interpersonal or soft skills. The other choices, from the survey of 400 executives, are strategic business expertise (13%), technical expertise (8%), and seniority or tenure with the company (7%).

A more collaborative style of leadership is essential, according to a report by member-based advisory firm CEB. That report said, however, that so-called network leadership was a skill that a large chunk of leaders were missing.

A global survey by PwC revealed a consensus amongst CEOs that interpersonal skills will be more valuable in the future, as leaders are required to adapt to an ever-changing business environment.

The Creative Group offered five traits for those seeking a promotion to a supervisory role:

  1. Vision. A sharp understanding of where your business is going is essential to success. Great leadership relies on a clear understanding of where the business is headed and also the ability to inspire others towards your goals.
  2. Focus. Effective managers know when to sacrifice short-term wins to pursue bigger-picture objectives.
  3. Creativity. Successful leaders are willing to turn established business practices on their heads and foster a culture of measured risk-taking. Their interest in innovation overrides a fear of failure.
  4. Flexibility. Good managers can pivot at a moment’s notice to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
  5. Resilience. Trying to reach a business goal means that, sometimes, leaders will fail. The best bosses can bounce back and turn a setback into a well-timed gain.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

How to Better Prepare Business Leaders for Today’s Top Challenges”: Too many business leaders worldwide are ill-prepared to tackle today’s most pressing challenges, research suggests. But talent management consultants offer nine tips for recruiting and developing more effective leaders.

Four Leadership Traits That Are Critical in the 21st Century”: To succeed in the increasingly consumer-oriented business environment of the 21st century, Hubert Glover, CPA, CGMA, suggests, executives must rediscover four tried-and-true traits of good leadership.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.