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Executive Readiness: The Business Context

By Jazmine Boatman, Ph.D.

Boatman Jazmine, Ph.D.

In DDI's Leadership Insights series, we dive deeper into understanding behaviors and personality traits of executives. DDI has spent the last decade observing how executives respond to complex decisions and sensitive interpersonal issues within a demanding and realistic day-in-the-life simulation. We discovered that the majority of executives are a driven, energetic, and operationally successful lot—but they are not perfect. Today’s executives are less capable of entrepreneurship and long-term strategy or people development. And while they are ambitious and willing to learn, they also tend to be impulsive and resistant to change.

But what we have not yet discussed is the context in which these executives operate. In other words, how do their strengths and development needs align with what the business needs them to do? Do their tendencies make them more likely to succeed or fail in their business context? After all, context matters—what utility is a group of entrepreneurial leaders in an organization where there is no latitude or aspiration for entrepreneurship? In Part 3, we share what DDI is learning about today’s executives in context.

Leadership Insights Context Matters
Let’s start with understanding the business context: What does the business demand from executives in order to succeed in the future? The challenges that businesses face differ widely across organizations, industries, and location. This is driven by an organization’s strategic and cultural priorities, which dictate key imperatives for leaders (context). It is this unique business context that we merged with what we know about the behavioral and personal tendencies of today’s executives. What emerged was an acute and discerning lens into the readiness of today’s leaders to drive the business.

Based on work with hundreds of organizations around the world we uncovered approximately 30 distinct business drivers and created algorithms mapping both competencies and personality factors (that both enable and derail success) to each driver. We refer to these leadership imperatives as “business drivers” because they are hurdles leaders will need to cross in order to drive the business forward.

To identify business drivers for a given organization, we use a systematic process to determine the critical challenges leaders will face given their organization’s business landscape, strategic direction, and cultural priorities. The mapped competencies, personality factors, AND business drivers are then assessed (through simulations, interviews, and testing) in order to provide the information necessary to determine whether leaders are ready to drive long-term business success. By wiring these variables in this way, we can put leadership into context with more precision and rigor. Ultimately, this process answers the question of readiness—how ready are today’s leaders for solving the collective organizational dilemmas/business challenges?

Jazmine Boatman is a senior consultant and former manager of DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research. 
Read the full Leadership Insights Part 3 to learn about the top business drivers—and how ready most leaders are to address those business challenges. You can also access the introduction and Part 1 and Part 2 on this site.

Posted: 22 Aug, 2013,
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