Identifying the essential traits that predict CEO success

December, 2015
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Consider this. In the US, 80% of Fortune 500 CEOs are in their first CEO role. Given the nature of the position, it’s clearly not a role that boards can take risks with when it comes to finding a successful incumbent. But how do boards assess potential candidates when the complexity and nature of the CEO role is like no other?

Boards have usually relied on assessments against executive capabilities combined with information about candidate experience within the relevant sector or geography. All highly relevant measures but lacking one important aspect: namely the individual’s ability to stretch themselves beyond all roles they have held in the past in order to deal with the unparalleled complexity and challenges that come with the CEO position.

Most successful executives have significant expertise, a strong skill set plus knowledge of all the key players in an organisation. But for a CEO the context is different. There’s no boss to serve as a backstop. They need to make sense of a considerable range of issues often with only vague information available to base decisions on. They need to articulate a clear business plan then inspire and engage an entire company to act on it.

In this recent article, Spencer Stuart explains its approach to assessing individuals’ executive potential. It suggests the critical difference lies in their ‘executive intelligence’ – essentially a measure of their capacity to be successful in new, unfamiliar and complex situations. They propose five key dimensions:

  • Business intelligence - the ability to apply analytical judgment in complex and ambiguous situations.
  • Contextual intelligence - the ability to see situations from multiple perspectives.
  • Interpersonal intelligence - the ability to read and respond to others’ emotional states to ensure a constructive interaction.
  • Conceptual intelligence – the ability to produce big-picture insights from complex and disparate information.
  • Learning intelligence – the ability to change thoughts and actions in light of new information.

Spencer Stuart has used this assessment approach for over a decade. The data they have compiled from the outcomes demonstrates the predictive power of the traits not only when it comes to executive performance but also when it comes to the performance of the business too.

Click here to access the original article: Spencer Stuart -Developments in predicting CEO success