3 Leadership Principles from Top C-Level Executives

Community Blog
Written by Clare Ryan

MARCH 28, 2023

Being a member of the C-suite today is not an easy job. Constant disruption, economic headwinds and an agitated workforce have troubled even the most experienced executive leaders. How can they lay a foundation for growth and advancement while motivating their teams during these turbulent times?

The C-suite must rethink their approach to executive leadership to ensure they are creating an environment for success. According to Gartner’s Executive Leadership Primer, “Every decision the executive leader takes should be impactful, and many will need reengineering so as to drive increased impact and business value.”

To gain a deeper sense of how C-level executives are evaluating their leadership styles and methods, we asked hundreds of members of Evanta’s exclusive C-level communities about their guiding leadership principles. After assessing their responses, three themes emerged as foundational for effective leadership: servant leadership, employee empowerment, and transparency, trust, and belonging. 

Be a Servant Leader

By far one of the most common threads from across the C-suite is that it is their duty to serve their teams. Their top priority should be to ensure their staff have the resources to reach and exceed their potential, especially as employees feel burnt out and feel underappreciated. Here is what a few executives say are their guiding leadership principles:

To serve my team. I think as our careers develop, we forget there is a stage where we are no longer expected to do the work, but rather to make sure the work gets done – and correctly! My success reflects the broader success of my team. Therefore, I focus on removing any friction that could make it difficult for my team to do their job, enabling them to achieve their potential.”

Lee Fulmer, Global Head of Innovation, Chief Data Officer, UBS Inc.
Governing Body Member of the UK & Ireland CDAO Community

To me, leadership is a culmination of vision, motivation and behavior. It’s really the guiding principle by which we lead others. I would describe my leadership style as a servant motivator. It invigorates me to collect a team, motivate them to reach their full potential, then see them win. At the same time, I am completely inspired by the energy of that team and so I live to serve others and help them meet their full potential.”

Felicia Sanders, Chief Human Resources Officer, Michelin
Governing Body Member of the Atlanta CHRO Community

Being a servant leader. Clearly outline the objective and allow for your team to actively fill in the details with their expertise – ‘Enabling your teams to be smarter tomorrow, than they are today’.”

Robert Pace, VP, CISO, Invitation Homes LP
Governing Body Member of the Dallas CISO Community

Leaders should be servants. Different hierarchy levels mean different types of jobs and different compensation – nothing else.”

Manfred Boudreaux-Dehmer, CIO, NATO
Governing Body Member of the Benelux CIO Community


Empower your Team

C-Level success rides on the success of the team, and employees who feel valued are known to have better outcomes. Executives must give their employees a voice - and listen to it - to both empower and validate them.

I always make certain to listen and seek out the opinion of others before providing my own in a team setting. This empowers the group and lets them know their input is valued and that they can impact outcomes on critical decisions. I have succeeded in building a productive and collaborative group when they are independently cross communicating to solve pertinent business and technical issues.”

Steve Grossman, Chief Information Security Officer, National Basketball Association
Co-Chair of the New York CISO Community

Know your team, understand them and listen. We cannot be successful leaders without the teams that drive our success. It’s important for us to invest our time in making them the best they can be.”

Edel McGrath, Group Head of Technology, Knight Frank
Governing Body Member of the UK & Ireland CIO Community

Lead by example through passion, empathy, and empowerment.”

Olga Sudvarg, Chief Operating Officer (Data) at Invesco
Governing Body Member of the Atlanta CDAO Community

Actively listening to people and maintaining a positive attitude to change is very important to staying relevant in a fast-evolving world.”

Paolo Cinelli, CIO, Bolton Group
Governing Body Member of the Italy CIO Community


Embrace Transparency, Trust and Belonging

Leadership is all about building valuable relationships, and many of the responses named transparency, trust and belonging as key elements to achieving this across the business.

I live my values, which include being genuine and caring. I meet people where they are and build engaged teams founded in trust and belonging.”

Brian Talbert, Managing Director, Chief Information Security Officer, Alaska Airlines
Governing Body Member of the Seattle CISO Community

Fostering trust and building an environment based in integrity are guiding principles.”

Gina Guillaume-Joseph, PhD, Chief Technology Officer - Government, Workday
Governing Body Member of the Washington DC, CIO Community

I believe in authenticity and transparency. Gone are the days where leaders need to paint a picture of perfection. Showing our vulnerabilities builds trust and allows those around us to feel included.”

Janine Pajot, VP, Human Resources, Bayer Corporation
Governing Body Member of the Toronto CHRO Community

In order to be a good leader, you must also be a good follower. A leader must build and maintain good relationships with those they lead and serve, building on a shared commitment of trust, mutual accountability and drive to deliver organizational goals.”

Tom Mullen, Chief Data Officer, County of Riverside, California
Co-chair of the Southern California CDAO Community


Learn from Your C-Level Peers

Evanta’s C-Level Communities come together across the world on a regular basis to discuss their mission critical priorities and to help one another succeed both personally and professionally. Apply to join your local Evanta Community, and take a look at the calendar to see when your community is gathering next.

Clare Ryan headshot

Clare Ryan

VP, Content & Product Strategy at Evanta, a Gartner Company

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