Judging The Quality Of Executive Management

Financial analysts were among the first to express interest in a rating system for the quality of a public company's senior executive management. Governance observers and activist shareholders won't be the last.

As free-market influence continues to shift from institutions to individuals and from manufacturers to end-user consumers, investors and market watchers are tracking executive leadership as never before. After all, in such volatile economic times, everyone's looking for an edge, and everyone's looking for the team of business leaders with all the right stuff to create long-term value.

It's easy to spot the problems and it's easy to spot the leaders and teams that no long-term investor should bank their future on. Yet selecting the right management teams to invest in remains a challenge. That is, unless you boil down the criteria for measuring "quality of management" to one of its most essential elements.

Consider the views of business management writer Tom Peters and American consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader - yes, an odd pairing but one grounded in common views of what companies should produce in addition to products, services and profits.

A quote attributed to Peters goes: "Leaders don't create followers; they create more leaders." And to Nader: "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

Many people will tell you that it's not difficult to find a Chief Executive Officer who says one thing and does the other. Just read the business headlines in any media on a given day and that statement may be readily reinforced.

The real test - and no small concern for the long-term investor - is whether the Chief Executive Officer of any going business concern has surrounded themselves with an exceptional management team. The strength and performance of a high-performing senior management team is one critical demonstration of organisational potential. A CEO must be both humble and smart enough to realise that the calibre of the people around them will dictate success or failure.

Just as the business leader must carefully choose who is up to the test, so too, should global investors dig down and do their own due diligence on whether enterprise sustainability and competitiveness can rely on superb management bench strength.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Seven Surprises for New CEOs
hbr.org

Leadership is fickle. As you climb the corporate ladder your role changes. When you lead a department you are expected to give orders. People look for leadership. When you lead a division you are expected to empower middle management. People look for guidance. When you become the CEO of a company you become a servant leader. People look for inspiration. Reaching the pinnacle role of a CEO is every graduate's dream, but when you finally arrive you have too much to do, with too little time and too little information. Moreover, you become a public figure and vulnerable to critique. Not everybody wears the armor to withstand such forces.

The findings of Harvard Business Review published in 2004 still seem relevant in 2020. Here are 7 surprises that new CEOs discovered when entering office:

  1. You can't run the company
  2. Giving orders is very costly
  3. It is hard to know what is really going on
  4. You are always sending a message
  5. You are not the boss
  6. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal
  7. You are still only human

Published by Michael E. Porter, Jay W. Lorsch and Nitin Nohria
From the October 2004 Issue

Summary by Geo Wehry, Senior Partner at TRANSEARCH, originally published on LinkedIn here.

Read "Seven Surprises for New CEOs" leadership insights