To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Too much or too little? A study of the impact of career complexity on executive adaptability

Guorong Zhu (Management Department, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts, USA)
Steve B. Wolff (GEI Partners, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Douglas T. (Tim) Hall (Organizational Behaviour Department, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Mireia Las Heras (IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain)
Betzaluz Gutierrez (Hay Group, Caracus, Venezuela)
Kathy Kram (Organizational Behaviour Department, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 16 September 2013

Abstract

Purpose

In today's turbulent business environment leaders must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. For this research the authors aim to focus on the issue of adaptability defined as the ability to work effectively within a variety of changing situations, and with various individuals or groups. They also aimed to examine how variables of career complexity affect development of adaptability.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors draw on a unique database containing the career histories of 52 senior executives in a major global corporation. They use the term career complexity to represent the degree of variety in these individuals' career experiences, and they test the degree to which career complexity contributes to the development of adaptability later in their careers.

Findings

Findings from this study shed light on the relationship between specific career experiences and executive adaptability. Executives who had the experience to serve in an executive assistant role developed higher levels of adaptability. For executives without the executive assistant opportunity, job rotations through different types of roles provided a boost to their adaptability. Three role type changes (e.g. line, staff, or matrix) is optimal; 100 months is an optimal time to spend in each role type.

Originality/value

While the field of leadership development has generated substantial insight into the competencies required by executives, there are few models and empirical studies that describe the process of how specific competencies are developed. The authors' study highlighted the utility of the career complexity construct for both prospective understanding of career actions and processes and retrospective understanding of paths, patterns, and outcomes. The authors demonstrated the predictive value of the career complexity construct by presenting results of the statistical analyses of the hypothesized relationships between career complexity and career outcomes.

Keywords

Citation

Zhu, G., B. Wolff, S., T. (Tim) Hall, D., Las Heras, M., Gutierrez, B. and Kram, K. (2013), "Too much or too little? A study of the impact of career complexity on executive adaptability", Career Development International, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 457-483. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-07-2012-0067

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited