Leadership Diagnostic: Unlocking Human Competence for Effective Strategy Execution


  • Hester Nienaber Unisa
  • Richard McNeill School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, The W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA




Leadership diagnostic, human competence, people analytics, strategy execution, business performance


Despite unprecedented technological advancement, people remain the most important resource for businesses to execute strategy. Yet, research reports that not all businesses ensure the optimum functioning of their people. This is evident from reports on (a) low levels of employee engagement, (b) deployed positions do not utilise peoples’ ‘competence’, (c) leadership lacks information linking employees to strategy execution and resultant business performance, (d) measuring employees’ contribution to business performance more readily at the tactical and operational levels than the strategic level of measurement, and (e) failure of strategy execution. Neglecting people is an enigma as leadership has long honed tools to make the most of their employees. One such tool is people analytics and another is strategy shaping. Consequently, we explored businesses use of people analytics in strategy execution, the vehicle ensuring business performance. This paper reports on the study. A literature review integrated strategy and people analytics culminating in a diagnostic which leadership can use to unlock human competence. An empirical study followed. Limited empirical evidence on the topic justified an exploratory survey which utilised an online questionnaire to collect vast amounts of standardised data from a purposively selected sample as best fit, which is uncommon. The data were descriptively analysed. The findings (a) showed that strategic level measurement is present at all levels of strategy shaping, and (b) overlooked at the business operational level where strategy is translated and executed, (c) revealed that these overlooked measurements are consequential for unlocking human competence, and (d) illustrated how people link to strategy execution. These findings provide preliminary evidence necessitating further descriptive and explanatory studies. This diagnostic provides requisite information enabling leadership to optimise the functioning of their employees by deploying suitably competent people in appropriate positions, rendering them available to perform, resulting in higher engagement levels, enhancing effective strategy execution, and improving business performance. This study contributes knowledge by demonstrating how people link to strategy execution, enabling leadership to make better decisions by discerning and selecting the critical people measures ensuring strategy execution and thus, business performance.