4 important pre-requisites that can help determine a manager’s readiness for their first executive leadership role.

Being promoted to a VP position is not like any other promotion.  It represents a dramatic leap forward into an entire new category of positions in large companies.  

Becoming a VP represents a shift
from a professional capabilities role
to one that now revolves primarily around executive
leadership capabilities. 


If you are part of a leadership team in a company that is tasked with the responsibility of deciding whether or not a director should be given VP status, below are 4 factors to consider: 1. Emotional Intelligence; 2. Operational Mindset; 3. Positive Vs. Negative Framing; 4. Attitude towards change.

The purpose of this article is to help
create the right filter with which
managers can be evaluated and
considered for their first VP role.

Nowadays, it’s not enough to be very good at what you do. You might be an exceptional financial professional; a phenomenal IT expert; or a truly appreciated legal mind.  None of these, on their own, have much to do with executive leadership.  It got you here – but it won’t be enough to get you there.  Being worthy of VP status requires the ability to be a role model for other employees and a true manifestation of the company's culture and values.  It has to do with advanced decision making in states of deep uncertainty while in highly complex circumstances.

HR professionals:  here are some dimensions you might consider in order to determine whether the manager sitting across the desk from you is real leadership material:

1. Emotional intelligence (EQ).


This measure should be seen as a significant component when evaluating people's abilities in general and leadership skills specifically.  When evaluating a person’s EQ, you should be looking at two components: Awareness and Control.
Awareness - How aware is this person to causal-links between environmental/ circumstantial stimulations and their emotional (internal) responses to them?  Do they know which types of situations trigger specific emotions within them – especially negative ones?  And even if they are aware, how quickly do they notice when this happens? 

Let’s say they kicked off their day with a really bad meeting with some of their peers.  These peers were supposed to complete a project and now informed this person that they are badly behind schedule.  Angrily, your candidate moves onto their next meeting (with another group of people).  One of these people is takes longer than usual to connect their laptop to the projector and our candidate gets seriously annoyed.  Will s/he have the level of awareness to realize “I’m not really that annoyed by how long it’s taking this person to connect their computer – I’m actually still under the emotional influence of my previous meeting”?

Finally, is our candidate for a VP position comfortable enough to discuss these causal-links with you, openly? If so, they are that much closer to being worthy of a VP position.  If you find them to be so, it’s time to evaluate how they score on “Control” in context of their EQ levels.


Control - Do this person move with agitation and make annoyed faces as the other person is attempting to connect their computer to the projector – or do they maintain a “normal” façade until the presentation starts? Emotional control refers to the ability to modify one’s own behavior in spite of one’s emotional responses (internal emotional state).  It looks specifically at how long it takes to successfully do so – from the moment the Awareness kicks in and until the moment the behavior is modified? 

EQ is a function of the time it takes from
stimulation to the most conducive self-
modified behavior as it pertains to the
desired outcomes of a given situation.

Stimulation  -->  Emotional Response  -->  Awareness  -->  Behavioural Response --> Self Modified Behaviour (Control)

Control is entirely reliant on Awareness.  If they are not aware, it will be that much harder to work with them on improving their control, and certainly on improving the people they will be managing as VPs.

2. Operational Mindset

What type of mindset are they predominantly in? Are they Value, Problem, Solution or Resource Oriented? 

  • Value Oriented – maintaining a consistent focus on the desired outcome which all efforts are intended to yield, throughout the entire process time frame. 
  • Problem Oriented – constantly being distracted by (and primarily focusing on) the host of obstacles/barriers that need to be overcome throughout the process timeline until the desired outcome is achieved.
  • Solution Oriented – getting lost in the “grass” and being highly tactical. Micro-managing and paying too much attention to “execution” with little patience for the process of identifying and comparing alternatives in the search for the most cost-effective one in light of the desired outcome. 
  • Resource Oriented – constantly feeling that the main obstacle to achieving the desired outcomes is a lack of resources. If only they had more time, people, budget. 

A value-oriented person is driven by the future; hence, when asked "why?" about change and policy recommendations they present, a value-oriented person will provide an answer that is anchored in the future. For example, "Why do you need a raise?"; "Why do you need more people on your team?"; "Why do you need a delay in the deadline?" they will answer:  "If we do this, it will help us insure a better the following outcomes in the following way…".

In contrast, a Problem Oriented answer would go something like: "I need this because today I'm dealing with a…b…c... ";

A Resource Oriented person will start every request by listing resources they require: "Listen, I need a…b…c…" which will then be followed up with a Problem Oriented statement: "mainly because of x…y…z..." and only after these two components, and only rarely, they will conclude with the actual desired outcome (the Value) all this is meant to lead to.

When people are naturally or intuitively Solution Oriented, they automatically bring in a leadership capability in the form of their role modelling this positive mindset for others in the company.

3. Positive Vs. Negative Framing


In interpersonal communication, Framing can be a good indication of the general attitude and mindset of the person across the desk from you. Framing relates to the way information is presented:  Positive Framing emphasises the affirmative (90% chance of success) and Negative Framing emphasises the opposite (10% chances of failure). 

Whereas Framing has been used to evaluate the receiver’s response (The Framing Effect), in the context of evaluating a manager for their first VP position, I argue that if they are naturally inclined to use Positive Framing they are more worthy as this most likely indicates that they are also pro-active in nature and more likely to be Value Oriented (see next part).

You can evaluate their “Framing Inclination” by asking them simple questions that requires a statistical answer or even by listening to them take part in a debate or any discussion where multiple opinions are introduced and see if they say things like “You’re wrong!” and“I disagree with you” or  alternatively if they say things such as: "I have a different approach" or “What if we looked at this in a different way…” or “Here’s another positivity”.

The reason I think Framing is so important is precisely because positive and negative framing are two ways of saying something without actually altering the factual content of the statement – while still having a big impact on the way it is received.  I believe that people in leadership roles need to communicate using positive and proactive sentence structures. This is, all things equal, I would prefer a person who uses positive framing for a VP position over a person who uses negative framing.

4. Attitude towards change


Do they embrace or resist change? A leadership role in the 21st century requires the ability to understand that reality frequently shifts and requires continuous creativity, innovation and adaptation.  Great leaders must be willing to embrace chance early on and at even love it!  

  • How willing is this manager (whom you are considering for their first VP position) to embrace a new way of doing things (i.e. –new standard operating procedures, new technologies, new organizational cultures, people with new work habits, etc.)?  
  • How willing are they to step outside of their comfort zone? 
  • How well do they perform when they are outside of their comfort zone?
  • How enabling are they of others who need to leave their comfort zone?

These are all very important leadership traits that need to belong to a manager who is about to become a VP.  I would target these four factors when trying to determine whether or not the person sitting across the table from you is ready for their induction into a leadership role in the company.