Competitive Intelligence: How to Gauge a Competitor CEO with the Seven-Factor Profiling Assessment

One of the quickest and easiest ways to profile a CEO for competitive intelligence is to complete the seven-factor CEO profiling assessment. It's based on hundreds of studies of organizations of all sizes (Fortune 100 down to small entrepreneurial firms) and has shown consistent results in gauging the predictability of CEOs and the organizations they lead.

To get started, choose a competitor's CEO and research and study him until you have a general idea of how he operates. CEOs of Global 1000 companies are high-profile people who usually have plenty written about them, so you should have no trouble gathering the necessary information.

If you're investigating the leadership of an organization that isn't publicly traded, you can gather information primarily from human sources, including local business groups, former employees, competitors, customers, local journals, trade associations, and so on.

Now rate the CEO on a scale of 1 (highly negative) to 5 (highly positive) for each of the following seven factors. This is purely a judgment call based on your opinion.

    ____    Personal ethics and philosophy
    ____    Attitude toward subordinates
    ____    Humility
    ____    Seeks the best for others
    ____    Attitude toward creativity
    ____    Attitude toward risk
    ____    Iconoclastic tendencies (willingness to challenge the status quo)

Here's a fun exercise to test your ability to profile CEOs. Rate the following CEOs based on the description for each one (write the total score, maximum 35, on the line to the left of each description):

    ____    The CEO of Company A is the ultimate numbers man. He has little time for people or motivation. He won't hesitate to cut personnel to save money. Former employees characterize him as incredibly competitive and even brutal. He's also known for his willingness to push legal limits to the max.
    ____    The CEO of Company B is the ultimate people person, who has very high expectations for everyone in the organization. She's the classic leader who inspires others to achieve what they never believed was possible. She expects people to be creative and believes that failure is often the steppingstone to success.
    ____    The CEO of Company C is the ultimate egomaniac. Six security people accompany him at all times. All employees of this Fortune 500 company have been told to exit the elevator if he gets on and not to make eye contact with him. His personality traits result in a workforce that lives in fear and will do anything to avoid mistakes or failure.
    ____    The CEO of Company D is the ultimate creative force in his company. He's known for occasional rages at employees, but is also so creative that he has a ten-year track record of creating highly innovative products that continually break sales records.

Assuming that you have your own CEO scores in place, read on for some sample scores and the reasons for those scores:

    14    The CEO of Company A is capable of getting hard-nosed short-term performance out of his people, but he is clearly not a team builder. He makes all the decisions at his company and is probably unwilling to listen to advice, heed warnings, or seek out creative ideas. With little regard for ethics, his company is likely to get into legal trouble or suffer from poor PR.
    30    The CEO of Company B values her subordinates, embodies humility, and expects excellence, making her the most formidable of her peers from an overall corporate performance standpoint. Her ability to motivate others and listen to what they have to say makes predicting what she'll decide very difficult.
    7    The CEO of Company C may have been a skilled leader in getting his company up and running, but he's a train wreck waiting to happen. The fear of failure he has instilled in his subordinates will ultimately stifle their creativity and lead the company into becoming a change-resistant bureaucracy. The good news for you is that this CEO's actions and direction are very predictable.
    17    The CEO of Company D will probably score low for most factors except creativity and iconoclastic tendencies. The company will probably develop some highly successful products but will have trouble retaining talented people. If the CEO leaves the company, it will be in serious trouble, losing its sole creative force.
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