Following is an excerpt from the ebook SOLID Executive Competencies: What It Takes to Be an Executive. This summary is useful for gaining a high-level overview of our competency model, our five categories of competency, and the competencies under each category.
Great CEOs, senior leaders, and executives at every level continually strive to improve their executive competencies. They are driven to attain peak performance and accomplish results in every aspect of their personal and professional world. SOLID Executive Competencies: What It Takes to Be an Executive facilitates this self-examination and self-improvement, providing a model for identifying strengths and weaknesses and removing blind spots.
Competency models are useful for gaining an accurate view of an executive’s skillset. They are also useful for understanding the attributes required to be an effective organizational leader. Further, they provide a framework from which to view overall performance.
In 2001, SOLIDleaders developed this executive competency model and categorization system, which measures the degree of balance or imbalance in five key categories of executive competency. SOLID’s five categories of competency are Core Character, Execution, Relationship, Management and Leadership. Organizational leaders must master all five categories to achieve excellence in their executive roles.
The feedback we received after many years of top leaders using our system made clear two key truths:
Our findings were consistent across almost every one of our engagements. Therefore, we believe these two factors are key ingredients of the ideal profile for any executive.
Balanced performance in execution, relationship, management and leadership beats super-performance in one or two categories. Case in point: Throughout our engagements over the years, we observed a fascinating phenomenon. Despite having a high degree of mastery over most of the competencies in these models, many executives still failed to achieve their career aspirations. They were being prematurely terminated or quitting key roles, despite their high degree of competency in some of the categories of competency. However, we noticed moderately performing executives often did better than the superstars, if they had balanced competencies in all categories and if they had strong Core Character.
A strong Core Character without a balanced set of competencies can be a career destroyer, and so can a are equally necessary for the executive to achieve and sustain peak performance.
The Positive Psychology movement would have you believe that all you have to do is play to your strengths to be an effective executive. Not true.
We regularly conduct interview-based 360-degree assessments when beginning a coaching engagement, and these assessments often identify imbalances. We frequently see executives using their strengths to such a degree that they become weaknesses. One of our most frequently quoted sayings at SOLID is, “A strength overused becomes a weakness.”
Overusing or overplaying to strengths is a common tendency that often creates a major weakness. Because it is strength being used, there is often a gaping blind spot obscuring this strength-becoming-a- weakness. During almost all coaching engagements, we identify at least one top strength that is being overused and creating problems for the executive. That is why following the simplistic advice of “Play to your strengths” is not always a good idea.
As a quick review, we have discussed why it is necessary to achieve and maintain balance. We have also defined five core categories of executive competency:
The following diagram depicts our model, with the corresponding competencies in each category.
Daniel J. Mueller
Daniel Mueller is one of the earliest and most active pioneers of the executive coaching industry. As of 2019, he has provided executive coaching for more than 1,450 CEOs and executives, delivered 85,000+ hours of one-on-one executive coaching, and been privileged to witness major transformation in the lives of most clients.
Passionate about serving leaders at every level, Daniel is dedicated to helping executives become more effective in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. Prior to specializing in executive coaching, he was CEO of a management training company, a business advisory firm, and an organizational development consultancy—all three of which heavily influenced his unique approach to executive coaching. In addition to drawing on these disciplines, Daniel has extensive training in the behavioral sciences, behavioral psychology, and executive career counseling. An avid student of executive leadership, he regularly speaks and publishes on subjects critical to executive peak performance.
Since 1996, Daniel has specialized in CEO and executive coaching, working in three main areas: leadership coaching, helping executives remove blind spots, leverage strengths, and overcome weaknesses; executive career coaching, helping executives transition from one role to another; and executive onboarding coaching, helping executives start new roles. He also provides training for professional executive coaches.
Since his first executive coaching engagement in 1987, Daniel knew he had found his calling, and had a meteoric rise to the top of the emerging executive coaching profession. However, the more outwardly successful Daniel became, the greater the internal pain of feeling like an imposter grew. He chose to numb this pain with alcohol, which led him into recovery for alcoholism—his sobriety date is March 4, 1996. Humbled and broken, Daniel began diligently working to attain personal transformation. This story of amazing success, total failure, and complete redemption has led to one of his favorite sayings: “I coach from a place of weakness, not strength.” From the wreckage emerged a tried and true methodology for helping any executive grow to the next level—if they are willing to do what it takes. Daniel is a good example of, “If he can do it, anyone can.”
From 1990 to 1996, Daniel served as President and CEO of Solid Foundation International Inc., an organizational design and development consultancy. There, he led team-building initiatives, administered hundreds of interview-based 360° assessments for executive coaching clients, and created individualized leadership development plans. A prolific writer, he authored numerous curricula for corporate universities, including “Training Skills for Leaders” (how leaders learn) and “Service BUILDS Sales” (how leaders sell), and dozens of white papers on critical success factors for leaders.
From 1986 to 1990, Daniel was CEO of MAI, a management consultancy acquired in 1990 by Organizational Leadership and Development, Inc., and from 1982 to 1986, was CEO of Wellness Consultants, Inc., a management training company. He began his career in 1975 as a personal trainer and fitness coach.
Daniel started college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and relocated to Austin to complete a degree in the Plan 2 Honors Program in Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. He is gratefully married to Patty and has three awesome daughters.