CEO of Pratch & Company, Leslie Pratch, Ph.D., specializes in assessing candidates for senior leadership roles in organizations, public and private. She is presently writing a book, provisionally entitled LOOKS GOOD ON PAPER, to be published in March, 2014 by Columbia University Press.
Leslie Pratch emphasizes that it is not enough to assess the candidate in the abstract. It is also important to try to get some sense of what new problems might face the business so that the assessment can focus on the qualities needed to cope with those kinds of problems. For example, George Fisher had been an outstanding leader at Motorola. He seemed an ideal candidate to reposition Kodak from film-based to full-spectrum-imaging technology. But he failed to grasp that the shift to digital imaging would make the manufacture and production of paper and film obsolete. Leslie Pratch’s assessment might have predicted that his self-confidence included a blind spot to the scale of disruptive technological change.
To evaluate leadership potential, a psychological assessment works hand in hand with insightful business analysis. Assessing a candidate begins by understanding the situation in which the executive is expected to perform. For this insight her principal source is the client, along with her own research into the industry, the company, customers, and competition.
It is possible to predict, at least much of the time, how an executive will cope with unexpected complexities and changes. For this, Leslie Pratch does not rely on a model that seeks to explain a wide variety of situations in general, one-size-fits-all terms. She does not seek to establish the average effect of one powerful variable on a large set of companies. Rather than establish the average effect, she seeks to tailor-make a fit.
Just as investors evaluate a company to understand the underlying basis for its earnings growth, Leslie Pratch assesses an executive to predict his potential to grow and perform in a specific role. Identifying a candidate’s coping style forms the core of her evaluation process, but not the full extent. The comprehensive predictive model she has developed takes into account the interactions of the executive, the corporate strategy, and the operating environment. Each situation is unique, but knowing the effects of each component with a high degree of detail strengths her ability to predict whether executives will perform as required.
Leslie Pratch developed her psychological model of leadership by by studying the theories behind the concept of active coping and the qualities required for effective leadership. She thought about what effective leaders did, felt, and thought; why they behaved as they did, why they made the decisions they made, and why those actions were effective—or not. She condensed these thoughts and theories to create her personal definition: leadership is effective when it influences the actions of followers toward the achievement of the goals of the group or organization.
With this definition, Leslie Pratch identified four elements of the active coping style that underpin effective leadership: integrity, psychological autonomy, integrative capacity, and catalytic coping.