Most of us at some point in our career decide that being a leader would be a worthwhile endeavor. Not all of us attain a position of authority, but most of us have the thought. The desire strikes people in different ways (progressive or situational) as well as at different times (early, mid, or late career). When leaders reveal what motivated them to act on this urge, common motivations include assuming we can do better than our current leader, desiring to feed our ambition, looking for the next step in our career, feeling it is our destiny, or a combination of these. Regardless of why, when someone becomes a leader a transition ensues. Put simply, what makes me successful before I become a leader does not guarantee me success as a leader.
In order to illustrate the differences, let’s use the four simple factors we discussed in our last post (strategy, execution, development, and relationships). Most of us when we became leaders demonstrated strong personal execution skills, commitment to personal growth or development, and good relationships with our supervisors and coworkers. Although important for personal success, these sub-factors make up a fraction of the skills needed as a leader. For example, as a leader I need to be able to execute multiple processes while depending on others to provide the majority of the effort, develop relationships up and down as well as inside and outside of the organization, and develop the skills necessary to grow others. Figure 1 provides a very basic summary of some of a few of the elements present within each factor. As an example, before I become a leader I would need to understand and implement organizational strategy. Once I obtain a junior level leadership position, I should become more involved in strategy development. Finally, as a senior leader, I take on a more comprehensive role in the development, communication, and monitoring of strategy.
Although the differences appear incremental, there are some significant skills differences between implementing micro-elements of strategy and designing an organization’s overall strategy.
So, what can we do to ensure that more leaders possess what is needed in the four factors?
- Determine what your leaders need to have to be successful;
- Assess who you have, their capability, their potential, and where gaps are present;
- Ensure that you recruit employees that have the potential to become leaders;
- Recognize that some exceptional performers are not meant to be leaders; and
- Invest the time and resources necessary to develop leaders.