The Original CEO Study identified several individual leadership characteristics, behaviors, and activities that raised questions regarding the CEO’s attitudes and motivations. In short, these CEOs were not your typical senior executives. They seemed quite different than most of the senior leaders that I have worked with over the years. To investigate this further using more objective quantitative methods, to supplement the qualitative analysis, I worked with three colleagues who are experts in this area.
This study was an exploratory, mixed-method, multiple case study on the motivational and attitudinal patterns (MAPs) of CEOs who have led successful organization transformations. The study identified six differentiating MAPs based on the analysis of results from the iWAM survey and in-depth interviews with Baldrige award recipient CEOs. Using quantitative and qualitative analysis methods, we found that CEO’s from Baldrige Award recipient companies have six identifiable differences when it comes to motivation and attitudes associated with their role of transforming organizations to achieve performance excellence.
1. Drive Continuous Improvement
None of the CEOs in our study were satisfied with the status quo. They have a high need to drive continuous evolution and improvement which is important for leading a large transformation. Leading transformation requires a lot of hard work and tenacity. Persistence is critical to follow-through and sustainable change.
2. Focus on Systems
They have a high focus on systems which helped them redesign the organizational systems – a central part of the transformation. Both systems thinking and a systems perspective were integral parts of the leading the transformation to performance excellence that resulted in ever-improving results across a comprehensive scorecard.
They have a low need for sole responsibility which positively influenced their collaborative leadership approach. Leaders in this study while confident were also humble and used a collaborative approach to planning and leading change. Involving others in the process of developing what and how to change resulted in not only better solutions but also increased “buy-in” regarding the change.
4. Learning from the Past to Inform the Focus on the Future
They have a high focus on learning from the past which initially was a concern for us. However, upon further examination they also have a very high focus on the future as one would expect but so did the comparison group. So, these CEOs had both a high focus on learning from the past AND used that to help inform their high focus on the future.
5. Focus on Information
They have a high focus on information. While many executives want to choose from a few options supported with a summary of the analysis, these leaders wanted to know the details. Leaders of successful transformation combined detailed information with a systems perspective to develop a deep understanding of how the organization worked and to identify leverage points.
6. Non-Negotiable Values
They have a low tolerance for actions that are inconsistent with the values of the organization. The participants in the study originally “pushed back” on this finding feeling that they were tolerant of diversity and alternative views. Once we explored this with the leaders, we all realized that this was specific to their lack of tolerance for people and behavior that was not consistent with the stated organizational values. This seems to make sense given that it is difficult to lead change if you allow some people to do things that are not consistent with the values and vision of the organization.
These six patterns are consistent with the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (CPE). Implications of these findings also serve as a facilitator for the development of leaders of performance excellence, as well as future research directions.
Larson, M., Latham, J. R., Appleby, C. A., & Harshman, C. L. (2012). CEO attitudes and motivations: Are they different for high performing organizations? Quality Management Journal, 19(4), 15. | Read more
Appleby, C. A., Harshman, C. L., & Latham, J. R. (2009). Baldrige CEO attitudes and motivations: Developing a model of excellence (pp. 18). Greeley, CO: Monfort Institute at the University of Northern Colorado. | Download
Baldrige CEO Attitudes and Motivations: Developing a Model of Excellence | A Look “Below the Surface” – The Individual Leader | Università di Trieste | 2013 | Read more
High-Performance CEOs: What Makes Them Different? | Webinar | with Milian Larson | 2012 | Download
Performance Excellence Research: The Monfort Initiative | Presentation and Panel Discussion | Decisions Sciences Institute | Annual Meeting | New Orleans | November 16, 2009 | Download
Baldrige CEO Attitudes and Motivations: Developing a Model of Excellence | Research Report | Baldrige Award Recipients (BAR) Consortium | Cambridge, MA | September 30, 2009 | Download