Online from: 1995
Subject Area: Performance Management and Measurement
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|Title:||A behavioral framework for highly effective technical executives|
|Author(s):||Linda E. Morris, (Adult Learning and Human Resource Development Program, Department of Human Development, VA Tech, National Falls Church, Virginia, USA), Christine R. Williams, (NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, District of Columbia, USA)|
|Citation:||Linda E. Morris, Christine R. Williams, (2012) "A behavioral framework for highly effective technical executives", Team Performance Management, Vol. 18 Iss: 3/4, pp.210 - 230|
|Keywords:||Competencies, Complexity, Management effectiveness, Senior management, Systems thinking, Technical executives|
|Article type:||Research paper|
|DOI:||10.1108/13527591211241033 (Permanent URL)|
|Publisher:||Emerald Group Publishing Limited|
|Acknowledgements:||© Linda E. Morris (VA TECH) and Christine R. Williams (NASA) The authors acknowledge Matthew Jarvis (formerly of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and Mary Ellen Derro, Sr Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for their efforts in conducting this study, and Matthew Kohut, Communications Team NASA, Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL), study editor. They also acknowledge NASA leadership for supporting this study including Michael Griffin (former NASA Administrator, Mike Ryschkewitsch, NASA Chief Engineer, and Edward Hoffman, Director NASA, APPEL. Finally, they acknowledge the participation of the NASA leaders who were part of this study and who are named in their report.|
Purpose – This paper aims to provide a deeper understanding of behaviors effective technical managers and executives use to lead complex projects, programs and organizations.
Design/methodology/approach – Described is a qualitative study to identify and document behaviors and attributes of effective technical executives at NASA. Methods included observation, shadowing and interviews with 14 NASA executives, who possessed a technical background and a systems orientation, and whom agency leadership identified as highly effective in their roles. Included also is a review of related theoretical and empirical scholarship on leadership and managerial effectiveness, focusing on research describing leaders' behaviors and competencies and approaches to deal with project and organizational complexity.
Findings – The study surfaced 225 observable behaviors clustered into 54 elements, within six broad themes: leadership, attitudes and attributes (including executive presence), communication, problem solving and systems thinking, political savvy and strategic thinking.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations include the small number of executives interviewed for 60-90 minutes and observed for a brief period. Future studies might include more executives, from a variety of organizations, and/or employ a quantitative approach based on or incorporating these findings.
Practical implications – The study's rich data will serve as a framework to help develop technical executives where complexity and technology drive the need for systems-oriented leaders with technical backgrounds.
Originality/value – The study and literature review provide a context for a deeper understanding of technical leaders' behaviors and use of systems thinking within complex situations.
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