Three skills to prise open the C-suite

You may feel that years of hard work may be enough to break the glass ceiling and join the ranks of the financial elite in the corner offices and upper echelons of management, but you’d be better off thinking more strategically about your skills development plan. Being technically proficient in your job is a prerequisite for advancement, not the manna you need to propel upward. The simple truth is that companies prize certain skills above others and this Here are three that if consciously developed, are likely to see you go all the way from open-plan anonymity to the boardroom.

Technological nous

There is a trend on the go for CFOs to take ownership of the technological direction of their companies. A finance chief in any sector needs to know how technology is impacting their organization and how best to exploit it, along with drawing insights from and analysing data. According to an EY study, "finance leaders need to understand key emerging technologies, make pragmatic decisions about the optimum time to invest, decide when to run pilots or other initiatives to test new innovations, and determine the people skills and capabilities they will require." Those who have a natural interest in this have an advantage over their rivals, assuming, of course, that they have the necessary financial acumen and deep, industry-specific knowledge.

Strategic thinking

Strategic foresight and the ability to deliver a high standard in execution is another skill frequently cited by the experts. Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect an organisation's direction. The strategic thinker has a big-picture perspective and is best able to identify and understand the drivers of a business and challenge assumptions about them, creating clarity out of convolution in the process.

Leadership

A range of skills rather than a single one, leadership qualities are an indispensible to the executive. You exude self-confidence that goes beyond having the number of a great tailor and a firm handshake and are always the unflappable person people turn to when things go awry. It means having unshakeable integrity and a set of ethics, while dealing with conflict when it arises and taking the opportunity to impact areas of the business beyond your ambit. Like CFO of the Year Vodacom's Till Streichert says, the sky is the limit for finance professionals when choosing how much of an influence they want to have on their organisation.