Executive leadership: A 7C approach

By: John E. Tropman, Lynn Perry Wooten

Tropman, J, & Wooten, L.P. (2010). Executive leadership: A 7C approach. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 8(4), 47-57.


This paper discusses the concept of “executive leadership” and presents a framework for organizing thought and research on these combined concepts. It concludes with a discussion of the Destructive Executive Leader. Executiveship and leadership are concepts in their own right. Executiveship refers to the managerial elements in running an organization, while leadership refers to charting its strategic direction. CEOs and other top team members need to do both, yet there are obvious tensions between these two foci. The paper addresses issues involving different combinations of executiveship and leadership elements, from a situation of virtuosity (individuals who are high in both areas and can bring forth appropriate skills as needed) to individuals deficient in each. When the virtuoso runs an organization, it is well managed and well led; when the deficient executive leader runs an organization, it is poorly managed and poorly led. The destructive executive leader puts the organization and its staff in peril. Seven areas provide perspective on how we may understand individuals in executive leadership positions: characteristics (personal features such as personality, etc.); crucibles (signature events that shape and imprint the executive leader); collaborations (key allies and mentors); competencies (knowledge, skills, and ability to execute); conditions (organization culture and structure); context (elements outside the organization that it can affect or affect it) and change (how swiftly in the environment evolving.) Singly and severally, these elements allow us to understand both the executive leader and the literature about executive leadership.