Executive Leadership Traits That Accelerate M&A Integrations

Leadership StrategiesMergers & AcquisitionsLeadershipHuman Resources OfficersAssessment and Benchmarking
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Erin Zolna, Ph.D.
February 10, 2021
2 min read
Leadership StrategiesMergers & AcquisitionsLeadershipHuman Resources OfficersAssessment and Benchmarking
Top leaders ensure successful integrations and stand out from their peers through leading with composure and adaptability to drive clear alignment, accountability and connection towards goals.


For a merger or acquisition to succeed, you need leaders who are familiar with the challenges and can guide your team through them.

We analyzed the profiles of 100+ executives who were under consideration to join a NewCo following a transaction and have outlined what distinguishes the top 10% of assessed executives from their peers.

Below are the skills and characteristics that lead to success in this type of environment.

Personality attributes of an effective integration leader

Calm and composed

  • Maintains composure and resilience in environments defined by change and disruption
  • Conveys a sense of thoughtful planning regarding NewCo’s future, despite the near-term turmoil of the integration

Ambitious and optimistic

  • Driven and results-oriented
  • High levels of energy, assertiveness, and self-assuredness
  • Sets the bar high for driving accountability and expectations for the team

Empathetic influencer

  • Adept in a variety of social environments
  • Embraces collaboration with others
  • Builds relationships and coalitions quickly by effectively “reading the room”
  • Communicates confidently by creating trust and engagement with others

Curious and thoughtful

  • Takes risks and explores new options in a structured manner
  • Are not beholden to tried-and-true methods for achieving goals
  • Institutionalizes industry best practices

Leadership competencies of an effective integration leader

Setting Strategy

  • Adept at developing strategies that shape the enterprise
  • Strong understanding of growth levers and can quickly translate data into action
  • Balances the execution of near-term deliverables of the integration while keeping in mind long-term integration goals

Executing for Results

  • Strives for best-in-class execution and are comfortable breaking new ground
  • Thrives on identifying opportunities amid change and ambiguity
  • Tests new and different approaches to improve the delivery of services and products
  • Overcomes obstacles easily while demonstrating flexibility in finding solutions

Leading Teams

  • Raises the collective performance of their teams
  • Holds team members accountable for stretch goals
  • Champions collaboration
  • Enables leaders to inspire their teams
  • Engenders trust and leverages it to the benefit of the organization

Building Relationships

  • Deploys political and interpersonal savvy to drive a particular agenda
  • Distills strategy into clear goals that rally others into action
  • Invests time in building strong relationships across the enterprise and consistently role models expected behaviors

Sample success profile - HR integration leader

Here is what an exceptional HR leadership profile might look like.

Strong HR business partner

  • Coaches effectively at the top of the organization
  • Reaches out to colleagues proactively across the business
  • Reinforces and links the M&A business case to the enterprise talent agenda

Holds others accountable

  • Believes in doing the right thing and stays close to what is important
  • Drives tough decision-making regarding talent and is decisive in managing performance

Positive facilitator

  • Shows a positive attitude in the face of challenging people situations
  • Provides an uplifting and realistic outlook on what the future holds for the business

Focus on alignment

  • Views all decisions and actions from multiple vantage points – both legacy organizations and NewCo
  • Uses this insight to ensure leadership attends to these perspectives

Additional Authors

Research Author - Eric Wimpfheimer