Paul Dinte

COMMENTARY

Do you have the qualities of a top executive?

Having just returned from a global meeting with my partners, I had the opportunity to step away and reflect on some of the more prominent trends occurring in the government contracting world.

The market for contractors is more competitive, more challenging and filled with more uncertainty than ever before. Budget cuts, national debt pressure, and organizational conflicts of interest issues create challenges and opportunities for companies and the executives who lead them.

Cybersecurity, health care informatics, cloud computing, mobility, unmanned aerial vehicles and nation building, are growth areas and offer enormous opportunities.

As an executive search firm, we have the unique opportunity to interact with a multitude of senior executives and board members and learn about the significant issues affecting the government contracting community. We hear the following recurring themes:

  • 1) Innovation and adaptability: Companies that are doing well in this market have dared to be different from their competitors. They have challenged the status quo to take advantage of the changing market conditions. They have cut and reorganized their companies, acquired new competencies, products or leadership to position themselves for long-term growth and success. They have aligned their business and people strategy with the new marketplace opportunities. 
  • 2) Succession planning and talent management: The pipeline for executive talent capable of meeting the market challenges is inadequate. The transfer of skills and competencies from other industries is limited. Executives are grappling with the dilemma of who can ascend to leadership positions across all functional areas, as well as how to retain and develop talent for sustainability and diversity. 
  • 3) Federal government acquisition strategy: Government contractors are facing a dramatically new competitive landscape highly charged with issues around pricing, protests, and performance measurements. 

At a recent luncheon with select government contracting leaders, the conversation focused on the specific need to identify and attract a leader for sales, marketing and business development. No other position within the organization appears as much a priority for the CEO whose responsibility to shareholders and stakeholders is to grow, build and leverage.

So what brand of executive leader will successfully navigate the new competitive terrain? Executives faced with unrelenting complexity, can no longer simply rely on experience, they must develop and exhibit the following qualities.

  • Courage, honesty, integrity and passion.
  • Strategic flexibility, intellectual and emotional intelligence.
  • Sense-of-urgency to ensure immediate impact and accountability.
  • Broad-based business and financial acumen.

These qualities transcend the specific functional role of the executive and apply to all leadership positions. Organizations that succeed in acquiring this brand of executive leader will employ a balanced approach that allows for both systematic and creative techniques. Some of the more contemporary approaches may include personality and cultural mapping, behavioral and structured interviews, and multiple interactions in a variety of settings.

This does not, of course, replace validation of career experiences, education and other credentials -- nor does it guarantee success -- but it serves to minimize the risk of a less than desirous hire. The adverse impact of acquiring the wrong executive may result in enormous cost as well as disruption to the organization’s mission and strategy.

As the market continues to evolve, let us not forget that opportunities surge for the very best leadership talent. Government contractors seeking to take advantage of the new competitive landscape will be continually challenged to acquire, develop and retain those leaders who exemplify these exceptional qualities and competencies.

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