My guest in this episode of the podcast “Leadership is the Competitive Advantage” is the executive search professional Aiga Ārste-Avotiņa. Aiga has been working in the executive search business since 1996, when she joined Amrop International in Latvia as their first local representative. She developed the company into the biggest player in the market for senior level recruitment in the Baltics. Currently she is Managing Partner of Amrop Estonia and Amrop Latvia, as well as a Partner in Amrop Ukraine. Based upon her extensive experience of assessing thousands of leaders, I wanted to discuss with Aiga what are the most important characteristics of a successful leader in her opinion. And if there are, so to speak, universal leadership traits, then how has this leadership blueprint changed over time.

“Even though it is difficult to generalize what are the universal characteristics of successful leaders, because the industry, competitive situation, the ownership structure, the governance model, the development stage etc. all have a huge impact on what kind of a leader would be successful in any particular case. But if we leave those aspects aside and still try to bring out some of the leadership characteristics that are pretty much universal traits of a successful leader, then I would say the following. First you need a strong analytical component in a leader. There needs to be a certain amount of brainpower to really understand the industry specifics – what is the complexity here, how can we work out the unique business model, what is the way for this company to beat the competition, to really understand what is the most important to win the game. And it is not only the analytical brainpower to understand this complexity but also the capacity to verbalize or communicate this vision to others in a clear and simple manner. The second universal element would be a heart, if we stick to the human analogy. And what I mean by heart is that the vision has no value if you can not get others behind it. If you can not get a buy-in from the rest of the team and the organization, then your brilliant ideas have little value. You need to win others’ hearts and souls and get them to follow your vision. It is really about how to get the people to follow your lead. This is deeply connected also to the alignment between the leadership style of the leader and the culture of the organization. Now, the third component would be arms and legs, if I may continue with the human body analogy. If you have the clarity about the direction of the business and the vision, if you get the buy-in and the following, then you also need the ability to properly execute on that vision. It is really about making it all happen in one or the other way. It is the practical part of actually getting things done. I would say that these are the three universal cornerstones of a successful leader.” – Aiga Ārste-Avotiņa

Listen and enjoy …