CEO Paul Dinte recently attended an international meeting with our global partners. From afar, he had an incredible opportunity to reflect on some of the more prominent trends occurring here in Washington, DC –the epicenter of the government contracting world. The market for government contractors is more competitive, more challenging and filled with more uncertainty than ever before. Budget cuts, national debt pressure, and OCI issues create challenges and opportunities for companies and the executives who lead them.
As an executive search firm, we have the unique opportunity to interact with a multitude of senior executives and board members and learn about – in real time mode – the significant issues affecting the government contracting community. We hear the following recurring themes:
1) Innovation and Adaptability: Companies that are doing well in this market have dared to be different from their competitors. They have challenged the status quo to take advantage of the changing market conditions. They have cut and reorganized their organizations, acquired new competencies/products/leadership to position themselves for long term growth and success. They have aligned their business and people strategy with the new marketplace opportunities.
2) Succession Planning and Talent Management: The pipeline for executive talent capable of meeting the market challenges is inadequate. The transfer of skills and competencies from other industries is limited. Executives are grappling with the dilemma of who can ascend to leadership across all functional areas as well as how to retain and develop talent for sustainability and diversity.
3) Federal Government Acquisition Strategy: Government contractors are facing a dramatically new competitive landscape highly charged with issues around pricing, protests, and performance measurements.
At a recent luncheon with select government contracting CEO’s hosted in the Dinte boardroom, the conversation focused on the key leadership role which appears to be the most challenging. The group quickly agreed that identifying and attracting the contemporary leader for business development was the highest priority. This seems to be one of the most critical leadership jobs where most organizations struggle. No other position within the organizational structure appears as much a priority for the CEO whose responsibility to shareholders and stakeholders is to grow, build and leverage the corporation.
So what brand of executive leader will successfully navigate the new competitive terrain? Executives faced with unrelenting complexity, can no longer simply rely on experience, they must develop and exhibit the following qualities:
- Courage, honesty, integrity and passion
- Strategic flexibility, intellectual and emotional intelligence
- Sense of urgency to ensure immediate impact and accountability
- Broad-based business and financial acumen
As the market continues to evolve, let us not forget that opportunities surge for the very best leadership talent. Government contractors seeking to take advantage of the new competitive landscape will be continually challenged to acquire, develop and retain those leaders who exemplify these exceptional qualities and competencies.