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How Executive Leadership Assessment Leads to Better Executive Talent Decisions

Heather Wray

Executive Coach and Assessor

Mar 1, 2023 | 1 min read

How Executive Leadership Assessment Leads to Better Executive Talent Decisions

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why Companies Use Executive Leadership Selection and Succession Assessments

  • A recent use case of a customer using ELA’s in their succession planning.

Since we launched Executive Leadership Assessments in early 2022, we have received very strong interest and engagements with our current global customers.

Spearheaded by our team of assessors, Crenshaw’s practice has a combined 20+ years of implementing selection and succession assessment programs for leading corporations.

CHRO’s and heads of talent are increasingly interested in a more data driven and rigorous process to evaluate talent and potential successors.

ELAs combine interviews with cognitive and behavioral assessments to provide a comprehensive, 360 review of the executive.

The value of combining in-depth interviews with cognitive and behavioral assessments provides a comprehensive review of the executive.

Here are two recent testimonials from CHROs regarding recent successful Crenshaw executive coaching engagements:

"I had certain inclinations, but this work made the changes we needed to make crystal clear." -Head of Global Talent at a Fortune 50 company

"This is the most in depth leadership assessment and IDP process we have ever conducted." -CHRO at a Fortune 500 Company

In this article, we will explore a recent use case of a customer using ELA’s in their succession planning.

A data-driven process that yields insights into leaders’ capabilities, motivation and fit.

You’ve read the articles and may have lived the reality:

The wrong hiring decision or lack of executive support is an organizational distraction and has significant direct and indirect cost.

An executive hire or senior promotion is always a critical decision for a company and a significant milestone for the executive and their colleagues.

However, despite the importance of these moves, companies have relied on selection processes that involve too much subjectivity, rendering these decisions vulnerable to bias if they are not based on data.

Due to the high-stakes nature of senior talent decisions, this is rapidly changing. We are seeing increased interest in a more rigorous, data-driven selection assessment that produces insights to help organizations make better senior-level talent decisions.

What is an Executive Leadership Assessment?

An Executive leadership assessment (ELA) is a data-driven process that yields insights into a leaders’ capabilities, motivation and fit.

Organizations use ELAs to assess potential new c-suite leaders – choosing those who will integrate well and who can be developed to deliver on long-term goals and contribute to the company’s longevity – or to bring in new talent to diversify and adapt to changing corporate environments.

An executive leadership assessment is a tool used to evaluate the leadership abilities of an executive. The purpose of an executive leadership assessment is to provide a detailed understanding of the individual's leadership style, strengths, and areas for development. ELA’s combine an in-depth interview with a series of cognitive and behavioral assessments.

Executive leadership assessments are used by organizations to identify candidates for leadership roles, to assess the readiness of current executives for promotion, or to identify areas for development for current executives.

The results of an executive leadership assessment are then mapped against established competencies and used to create a leadership development plan.

Executive leadership assessments are also useful for executives themselves, as they can provide insight into their own strengths and areas for improvement, and help them to better understand their own leadership style and how it affects others.

ELA’s are used for evaluating and developing top senior talent

Companies use ELAs to identify the best leaders for specific roles and determine the support and/or development that might be required for each individual to enhance the probability of a good hire. This process also supports effective onboarding, successful promotion, and individual development plans (IDPs).

Today, corporations are becoming much more thoughtful, sophisticated, and data-driven in their selection, succession, and development of talent.

When senior executives leave, it can have a devastating impact on your organization. High turnover doesn’t look good on a CHRO and signals larger organizational turmoil.

  • High turnover doesn’t look good on a CHRO.

  • Frequent turnover reflects poorly on everyone in the organization.

Why do Companies Use Executive Leadership Selection and Succession Assessments?

Companies use Executive Leadership Assessments (ELAs) for the following reasons:

  1. To determine who may be ready for a particular assignment among a number of candidates.

  2. To evaluate an executive’s potential stretch (upward mobility/ responsibility).

  3. To evaluate an individual and have the data and insights for a robust development plan within the job competencies.

  4. To make a final hiring or promotion decision between candidates.

  5. To evaluate successors and potential leaders for succession planning.

Here are three specific situations where Crenshaw’s Executive Leadership Assessments (ELAs) have significant value:

Selection. The word selection typically implies bringing in outside candidates for a senior role but can also include considering an internal candidate. After a thorough recruiting, interviewing, and vetting process, a company may use ELA to better understand the leadership behaviors and styles of the final few candidates in the talent pipeline.

Succession. Companies that want to develop a robust pipeline of internal candidates for senior positions may wonder, “What do we have?” and “How will they contribute in the next seat?” This can lead to assessing the potential of emerging leaders further down the leadership pipeline. Historically, companies have been effective at assessing performance by reviewing internal data sources and through regular performance reviews.

Unfortunately, many organizations fall into the trap of believing that current performance equates to future potential. Extensive research shows this isn’t true and savvy organizations are increasingly exploring how to predict future performance from emerging talent. For effective succession planning, organizations are seeking tools and methods to help better assess the future potential of their leadership pipeline.

Talent Development. For leaders with identified potential, organizations want insights that will help focus each person’s specific development activities to best prepare them for the future. This involves utilizing the leader’s key strengths, identifying areas for development, and ensuring that their motivations and career goals are nurtured.

All three situations deserve a more rigorous process that begins with a need’s assessment with key stakeholder input, which is then combined with interviews and candidate assessment data. This work builds on our forty years of experience with the most senior executives and leading corporations and is led by our assessment experts, Ph.D.’s, executive coaches, and trusted advisors.

How Crenshaw’s Executive Leadership Assessments Work

The first step in Crenshaw’s ELA process is a thorough needs assessment. This requires reviewing the business model, strategic plan and challenges, the vision for the organization, and the culture ( CultureMapping™). Here, we assist in determining the critical competencies required for organizational leadership moving forward. Every candidate is assessed based on the strategic business needs as well as role-specific responsibilities and success factors.

The next step in the assessment is a rigorous one-on-one, behavior-based interview that identifies the executive’s motivation, career goals, personal leadership style, and personal view of their strengths and development areas for improvement.

In addition to the structured interview, candidates complete a series of empirical tools that provide insights into leadership traits, resilience, style, motivation, thinking, and problem-solving abilities. The data is then interpreted through the lens of the business’s needs and the demands of the role being filled.

Assessment insights from the interview and the instruments are then summarized in a comprehensive report about each candidate; this report is shared with the hiring manager, the appropriate HR partner, and key stakeholders.

The insights delve into the candidate’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, motivation, development needs, and potential. They also examine the fit based on the organization’s strategic needs. Our engagements are powered by data and are led by experts to accelerate performance and productivity.

Case Study – Preparing for C-Level Succession


A $7B luxury goods company was interested in improving its succession and development process for C-level transitions. Four possible successors had been identified for the CFO role, projected to be needed in 2-3 years. Each candidate brought different strengths and experiences to the table.

Crenshaw initiated an Executive Leadership Assessment program to first identify the future leadership competencies that will be needed in the CFO role. This was done through interviews with the sitting CFO and HR leader. Each succession candidate was then interviewed and took the ELA battery of tests. This provided rich behavioral and cognitive data, in addition to self-assessment and personal aspiration input provided by the participants.


All of this information was evaluated relative to the future needs of the CFO role. The findings were reviewed with the participants, and then presented along with a highly customized development plan to the internal team.

The CHRO reported that this is the most in depth leadership assessment and IDP process they’ve ever conducted, and that the observations were spot on.

Crenshaw Partners with key stakeholders to gather critical insights on the executive.

Over the past two years, we have completed ELAS across a wide range of industries, including Industrial and Manufacturing, Technology Services, Consumer and CPG, and Professional Services.

Examples of how ELA’s have been used include:

  • Discovering potential successors to the c-suite team from the current emerging leaders

  • Post M&A evaluation of the leadership team for strengths and growth potential

  • A newly placed CEO assessing the capabilities and engagement of their new team

Examples of using ELA’s to identify successors to leadership positions

  • Assess four potential successors to a CFO.

  • Identify and select nine high-potential future executives.

  • Assess a potential outside hire.

  • Help a leader to evaluate and determine whether nine executives among her leadership team were in the right job and had the right skills.

  • Develop and evaluate three sitting Division Presidents as successors.

The ELA process and the assessment report are tools that provide data-driven, reliable, judgment-informed insights to help organizations make better talent decisions that result in positive business impact.

These tools don’t exist in a vacuum.

Executive Leadership skills require:

  1. Strategic thinking and quick decision-making:

    The ability to think critically, analyze complex situations, and make sound decisions that align with the organization's business goals and objectives.

  2. Strong Communication and interpersonal skills:

    The ability to effectively communicate with and influence others, build strong relationships, and lead teams.

  3. Vision and innovation:

    The ability to think creatively, identify new business opportunities, and develop innovative growth strategies to drive the organization forward.

  4. Emotional intelligence & high EQ:

    The ability to understand and manage one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others and to build trust, resolve conflicts, and lead effectively.

  5. Adaptability and resilience:

    The ability to navigate change and uncertainty and bounce back from setbacks and challenges.

  6. Business acumen:

    A keen understanding of how business works, the inner workings of the industry, new market trends, and the external factors affecting the organization and business landscape.

  7. Cultural intelligence:

    The ability to work cross-functionally across different cultures, customs, and backgrounds in a global business environment.

  8. Ethical leadership:

    The ability to lead an organization with integrity, transparency, and a strong sense of ethics and values.

  9. Technical expertise:

    An in-depth understanding of the technical aspects of the industry, products, and services.

  10. Self-awareness:

    The ability to have a deep understanding of oneself, one's strengths, and weaknesses, and how they may impact the leadership role.

Executive assessments can highlight a variety of issues, including:

  1. Leadership strengths and development:

    Assessments can identify the key leadership skills and competencies that an individual possesses and areas where they may need improvement.

  2. Blind spots:

    Assessments can reveal unconscious biases and blind spots that may impact an individual's leadership effectiveness.

  3. Derailers:

    Assessments can identify behaviors or traits that may derail an individual's leadership potential if not addressed.

  4. Alignment with organizational goals:

    Assessments can reveal whether an individual's leadership style and approach align with the organization's mission, values, and goals.

  5. Emotional intelligence:

    Assessments can measure an individual's emotional intelligence and how it relates to their leadership abilities.

  6. Decision-making and problem-solving abilities:

    Assessments can evaluate an individual's ability to make sound decisions and effectively solve problems.

  7. Communication and interpersonal skills:

    Assessments can measure an individual's ability to communicate effectively and build strong relationships with others.

  8. Adaptability and resilience:

    Assessments can reveal an individual's ability to navigate change and uncertainty and to bounce back from setbacks and challenges.

  9. Cultural intelligence:

    Assessments can measure an individual's ability to understand, appreciate, and work effectively across different cultures, customs, and backgrounds.

  10. Ethical leadership:

    Assessments can measure an individual's ability to lead with integrity, transparency, and a strong sense of ethics and values.

When these leadership issues are not addressed, they can negatively impact the company, resulting in poor business performance, senior leads exits, and decreased team effectiveness.

For example, is there an area for development the executive needs to improve on?

How can that affect the company or executive?

Performance Blockages:

When assessing a new leader, the first step is to review performance blockages.

Examples of executive performance blockages can include the following:

  1. Does not exhibit strategic thinking:

    Difficulty in seeing the big picture, connecting the dots, and making sound decisions that align with the organization's core business goals and objectives.

  2. Poor communication and interpersonal skills:

    Difficulty in building strong relationships, communicating effectively, and leading executive teams.

  3. Lack of emotional intelligence:

    Difficulty in understanding and managing one's own emotions and the emotions of others, which can lead to poor decision-making, conflicts, and a lack of trust.

  4. Inability to adapt and be resilient:

    Difficulty in navigating change and uncertainty, and bouncing back from setbacks and challenges.

  5. Lack of business acumen:

    Difficulty in understanding how business works, the industry, market trends, and external factors affecting the organization and business landscape of emerging threats.

  6. Lack of technical expertise:

    Does not understand the technical aspects of the industry, products, and services, which can negatively impact innovation.

  7. Limited cultural intelligence:

    Exhibits challenges working effectively across different cultures, customs and backgrounds.

  8. Ethical challenges:

    Difficulty in leading with integrity, transparency, and a strong sense of ethics and values.

  9. Strong resistance to change:

    Does not embrace new ideas, processes, and ways of working, which can impede progress and innovation.

  10. Lack of self-awareness:

    Difficulty in understanding oneself, one's strengths, and weaknesses, and how that may impact the senior leadership role.

How to prepare for an executive leadership assessment

An executive participating in an ELA works one-on-one with one of our assessors. The assessor will first collect background information on the executive to gain an understanding of their career trajectory, accomplishments, and goals. The participating executive should update their resume and bio to reflect their most recent roles, responsibilities and accomplishments. This gives the assessor a better view of the executive’s professional story.

The assessor then conducts an in-depth interview of the participant to talk about their leadership style, their strengths, areas where they believe they can further develop, and what their future aspirations are professionally. Prior to this interview, the executive can give some thought as to what they believe their strengths are and where they see themselves in the future.

Lastly, the participant is asked to complete a series of online assessment instruments that measure different aspects of the executive’s personality and cognitive ability. The executive should carve out enough time to read the instructions and understand what the assessment is measuring.

The behavioral assessments have no right or wrong answer, as they are a measure personality, leadership style, values & preferences. The cognitive tests measure thinking style and abilities and are scored based on an executive level rubric. While we do not recommend studying for these tests, they do require the participants full attention and effort.

Executive Leadership Assessment Services | Crenshaw Associates:

Executive assessment for next-gen leadership development

Our engagements are powered by data and led by experts to accelerate performance and productivity.

For over forty years, we have powered CHROs and Fortune 500 corporations with the tools to optimize hiring processes, boost employee productivity, and maximize performance.

We are a leading provider of executive leadership assessments, dedicated to helping organizations identify and develop the leadership potential of their executives.

Our comprehensive assessments are tailored to the unique needs of your organization and are designed to identify key strengths and development areas for your current and potential leaders.

Our executive assessments are based on the latest research in leadership development and are delivered by experienced professionals who understand the challenges of leading in today's fast-paced business environment.

Our assessments include a variety of tools, such as personality tests, behavioral interviews, cognitive ability tests, and 360-degree feedback to provide a comprehensive view of an individual's leadership abilities.

We also provide detailed reports and executive coaching to help leaders understand their results and identify specific areas for improvement. Contact us today and learn how our executive leadership assessments can help you take your organization to the next level.

Don't let your organization's leadership potential go untapped. Contact Crenshaw today.With Crenshaw’s executive leadership assessments, you can:· Identify key strengths and development areas for your current and potential leaders· Identify potential leaders for succession planning· Improve decision-making and strategic thinking· Improve communication and collaboration among leaders· Improve the alignment of leaders with the company's mission, values and goals· Identify and mitigate any potential blind spots or biases in leadership· Increase the effectiveness and productivity of the leadership team· Improve employee engagement and retention· Improve the overall performance of the organization· Provide a benchmark for leadership development and training programs

To learn about how Crenshaw’s Executive Leadership Assessment can benefit your organization, contact us here.


Journal of leadership accountability and ethics

Date last updated: March 2023

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