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DEVELOPING EXECUTIVE LEADERS: THE RELATIVE CONTRIBUTION OF COGNITIVE ABILITY, PERSONALITY, AND THE ACCUMULATION OF WORK EXPERIENCE IN PREDICTING STRATEGIC THINKING COMPETENCY

Authors


  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology held in San Francisco, California in 2008. We thank Chris Carraher at PDI Ninth House for supporting the data collection and Frank Schmidt for providing advice throughout the data analysis. We also appreciated the helpful suggestions from Jeff Johnson, our two anonymous reviewers, Murray Barrick, and members of the Women's ILR Writing Group on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Much of this research was conducted while some of us were affiliated with other institutions: Lisa Dragoni worked on this research while at the University of Iowa, In-Sue Oh was affiliated with the University of Iowa and the University of Alberta, and Paul Tesluk was on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. We thank our colleagues at our previous and current universities for their support and encouragement.

Lisa Dragoni, Department of Human Resource Studies, Ives Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; ld284@cornell.edu or In-Sue Oh, Department of Management, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, 301 W. Main Street, Box 844000, Richmond, VA 23284; isoh@vcu.edu or insue.oh@gmail.com.

Abstract

We conceptually define and empirically investigate the accumulation of work experience—a concept that refers to the extent to which executives have amassed varied levels of roles and responsibilities (i.e., contributor, manager, lead strategist) in each of the key work activities that they have encountered over the course of their careers. In studying executives’ work experience accumulation, we consider key antecedents such as executives’ cognitive ability and personality traits, namely Extraversion and Openness to Experience, and examine the value of work experience accumulation on executives’ strategic thinking competency. Analyses of multisource data from 703 executives revealed 3 key findings: (a) accumulated work experience positively relates to executives’ strategic thinking competency after controlling for individual characteristics and other measures of work experience; (b) executives’ cognitive ability demonstrates the strongest and most positive relationship to executives’ strategic thinking competency; and (c) extraverted executives tend to achieve higher levels of work experience accumulation. Relative weight analyses also indicated that cognitive ability and accumulated work experience are the 2 most important predictors for executives’ strategic thinking competency among the other predictors. These findings are discussed in light of their practical implications.

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