In search of leadership

July 29, 2019 | 2 min read

From time to time the news is dominated by derangements or acts of mismanagement by executives in not for profit organizations. Large parts of society are affected when a hospital goes bankrupt, a social housing corporation overloads itself with derivatives or debts or an educational organization is not able to keep its doors opened. Public organizations are dependent largely on trust and executives play an important role in trust.

On 2 July 2019 Morris Oosterling successfully defended his doctorate thesis at Tilburg University. We as TIAS are very grateful to the Vanderkruijs Chair, Porticus Foundation, Prins Bernard Foundation and the Dutch Ministry for Education for their financial support. The dissertation consists of three research parts. All parts deal with selection of executives for not for profit organizations. This subject is covered widely in publications but only few of these are based on scientific research. Morris’ text is a great contribution to the body of knowledge regarding this field.

Part one of the research concentrates on recruitment texts ranging from 1980 tot 2010. These texts show a gradual shift from focusing on denominational and identity issues to stressing responsibility for public policy to emphasizing entrepreneurship. After the change of the millennium ‘value thinking’ enters the stage and the texts become more ambiguous and multi interpretable. Requirements tend to become more extensive and piled up. Parallel to this rise of expectations the risk profiles for failure and deranging get higher.

Part two consists of a number of case studies. The key issue is the selection process. Striking in all case studies is the extensiveness of required qualities opposite to the amount of attention given to them during the process. Selection committees underutilize objectifying instruments such as IQ tests and assessments. Preferences are developed based on statements such as ‘I have a gut feeling’, ‘I feel good vibes’, ‘I feel a connection to the candidate’. It seems as if it is not a sound selection but a confirmation of prejudice.

The third part of the research is directed towards the decision making process. What causes people in the selection process to state clearly what they prefer and yet to decide for another option? Morris approaches this question by constructing a conjoint analysis. Three factors stand out: ‘the click’ while interacting with the candidate, communicative skills and the ability to connect. ‘Experience’ is not taken into consideration as an important factor. Obviously selection committees value communicative and connecting skills highly. Objectifying these skills is one of the hardest tasks.

Explanations for failing and deranging behavior of executives in health care, education and social housing are closely connected to the way the selection process of these very same executives goes. The search for the right executive is very much led by personal and thus subjective judgement.

The use of objectifying instruments such as (IQ)tests and assessments will improve the percentage of successful executives and reduce the amount of failures and derangements.

Oosterling, M. (2019) Op zoek naar leiderschap, de top van non-profitorganisaties bezien vanuit selectie (Doctorate thesis TIAS, Tilburg University)

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