In preparation for launching this series on developing exceptional executives we want to provide a little background. At the start of any client relationship or engagement we regularly conduct in-depth qualitative interviews to identify and understand their unique context, patterns and current results.
When working with individual executives, our diagnostic typically includes 20-30 interviews with superiors, peers and direct reports. We use a consistent interview protocol focused on an exploration of their strengths and weaknesses, and the strategic imperatives for their role. For this series and our book, Rising to Power, we chose high performing executives from the hundreds we have worked with over the past ten years. They represent various industries and over 2700 separate interviews. We rated and ranked each executive based on their impact and business results. We then studied the consistency and effectiveness of behaviors used to achieve the results as part of an in-depth quantitative assessment. Our goal was to understand the defining characteristics and patterns of behavior between the top 25 “best of the best” and bottom 25 “worst of the best” performers of the total population.
We began with an assertion that strong moral character is foundational to effective leadership; however, it is worthy to note that our executive study revealed a strong correlation only with the absence of integrity of character, but no noteworthy positive correlation with its presence. Specifically, absent strong moral character our results conclude that a leader is 73% more likely to undermine business performance. Our study reinforced that high moral character is the expected standard. We surmise that most of those we interviewed expect the existence of moral character as a pre-requisite for occupying an executive role and therefore only highlighted it when it was lacking.