What it takes to become a top executive

Ambition, confidence and a natural orientation towards constant learning

The main difference between top executives and other employees is not, as one might think, that the former group is more intelligent or better qualified but rather that they are more driven. This is according to research conducted by JvR Africa Group in partnership with Jack Hammer, one of the top three executive search firms in South Africa.

Their study tested a range of traits of 4 442 people across various employment levels, including executives, middle managers, entry-level supervisors and individual contributors. 

The objective of the study was to identify trends among different groups of employees, taking into account gender, age, generation and job levels, and provide insights to professionals climbing the corporate ladder, as well as companies seeking to optimise leadership.

One of the fascinating insights from the research is indisputable data around the primary characteristics or traits of top leaders. For anyone wondering why they’re not getting ahead, here we found some clear answers,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, leadership expert and CEO of Jack Hammer.

“Executives are clearly more ambitious than people at other job levels. They are also more confident and exhibit a natural orientation towards constant learning. And while this may sound obvious, it really isn’t. It invites a question regarding whether these traits can be cultivated if they are not naturally present.”

Fortunately, for those who are not blessed with the three golden leadership traits as part of their innate disposition,  an interrogation of the findings shows that these personal qualities can be developed – meaning that those to whom these don’t come naturally need not throw in the towel on their dreams.