The aim of this research project was to investigate what competencies senior executives need for effective performance, and to explore their application in the development of executives. To achieve this aim, the thesis had two distinct, but related parts. First, a conceptual model of executive competencies was developed and tested for executives in the public sector environment. The identification of this model was guided by prior typologies, and national policy guidelines were used to express and describe the competencies. Second, the model was applied as a framework for examining executive development needs identified by the executive and their immediate manager, and for exploring issues that influence senior executives to renew their competencies. Overall, the project involved four studies.
In the first study, 200 senior executives from the Senior Executive Service (SES) of a state public service, and 11 groups external to the SES (invited from professional bodies, tertiary institutions, employer groups and unions) participated in the development of a model of executive competencies . The comprehensive process used to develop this model was guided by a reference group of senior executives. Methods used to develop the competencies included focus group discussions, interviews, examination of job descriptions, submissions from interest groups , and feedback on draft sets of competencies . The model that resulted from this process comprised six competency dimensions, and a corresponding set of 21 elements with descriptions of behaviours defined as instances of high competence. The development, confirmation and use of the model were the key concerns of the second, third and fourth studies.
The second study was an empirical test of the viability of the competency model developed in Study 1. The model was tested on three groups: 200 senior executives and their managers from core public service departments, and a further 101 senior managers from an outer public sector agency . This empirical validation of the model was required before the competency framework could be applied to identifying development needs for senior public sector executives . Confirmatory factor analysis was used to determine the fit of the model for the three groups of senior executives. Results revealed that the proposed underlying structure of the variables developed in Study 1 was generally validated on the three groups tested." .............................................