What Does It Take To Be An Executive At Your Org?
Executives come in all flavors. Organizations also come in all flavors. People who want to be Executives come in all flavors. How do you know what your organization needs from an Executive? How do you know what you need to work on to be an Executive (in your organization or in another organization?)
Let’s start with the first question. How do you know what kind of Executive your organization needs? (You’ll note I didn’t say what kind of Executive your organization is looking for—organizations don’t always look for the right kind of Executive. It’s a lot like the Church Board that replaces the retiring minister with one who is the total opposite. The Board is tired of dealing with the current minister’s weaknesses, but forgets that the congregation is there because they LIKE the current minister’s strengths.)
Factors to consider when figuring out what kind of Executives your organization needs:
- Past Success–What successes have the organization had in the past? What drove those successes? How long ago was that? What kind of leadership was in place for those successes? What kind of management infrastructure was in place? What lessons did the organization learn from the successes? What lessons did the Executives learn from the successes?
- Past Failures–What failures has the organization had in the past? What caused those failures? Did the organization learn anything from the failures? Did leadership learn anything from the failures? Were there consequences that left scars on the organization–did the organization develop a risk aversion or become overly cautious?
- Years in Existence— How long has the organization been in existence? What kinds of trends has it been through? Did it start centuries/decades/years/months ago? There are pluses and minuses to an organization that has been around a long time, just as there is for a new organization. Either way, though, they need different things from Executives.
- Organizational Maturity— How mature is the organization in its processes and systems? How sophisticated is it in its relationship with its customers? Its community? Its employees?
- Founder Legacy— Is the founder still in the picture? What kind of interactions does the founder have with the organization? Was the founder a charismatic leader who was a tough act to follow? How many generations of professional management have there been since the organization was founded?
- Reputation–What is the organization’s reputation? What is it based on? How integrated is that reputation with the reputation of the Executive(s)? How integrated is the reputation with that of the industry, or with the organization’s successes and failures? What things have been done to affect the organization’s reputation? What has worked/not worked?
- Industry Health—Is the industry growing or shrinking? Are there serious resource or pricing issues? Are there regulation issues or changes? Is the industry merging with another one (for instance, phones/computers/music). How is the organization positioned to deal with these issues?
- Industry Size—Is it a big industry? Is it a small industry? Is it a start-up industry? Does it stretch across/into countries with huge markets? Or is it a single geographic location industry?
- Players—Who are the players in the industry? Big? Small? How does your company fit? Is it a player? Is it a wannabe, a newbie, or is it peripheral?
- Competition—What is your company’s competition? Who is your company’s biggest competitor? Who is its riskiest? Are there emergent competitors?
- Growth—Is the goal to grow the company? Is that realistic? Is there room to grow? Is there opportunity in your existing market or in markets not yet tapped?
- Innovation—Is the goal based on innovation? Does the company have a history of being innovative? Does the company have innovative employees? Processes that drive innovation?
- Products—Is the goal based on new product development? Again, is there a history of new product development? Are there processes, systems and the discipline to drive new product development?
- Efficiency— Is the goal based on becoming more efficient? Has the company done this/been doing this? Is the purpose to serve customers better, or to cut costs, or both?
What Does Any of This Have To Do With What It Takes to be An Executive?
It has to do with what SKILLS the organization needs. If the organization needs to deal with a riotous market or industry, then the organization needs someone how handles change well, so is more of a leader than a manager, who is comfortable with ambiguity. If an organization’s strategy is based on product development, and is young, and has just lost its founder, it needs an executive who can be hands-on enough, who can understand the genealogy of the culture, who can inspire while driving results. If the organization is targeting a growth strategy, then it needs someone who can execute, who is strategic, ideally who has experience with delivering growth, and who has boundless energy.
One size does not fit all. A leader/manager for one kind of organization/industry is not likely to be a perfect fit for another. This is not to say it can’t work, because it depends on what, exactly the organization needs. If an organization’s industry has suddenly become turbulent after decades of stability, then someone from an industry that has been in white water for a while is likely to be a good fit—although they will be fighting an uphill battle against the existing culture. So, someone who understands organizational change management would be helpful in that situation.
What Do You Think Your Organization Needs From Its Executives?