Strong Individual Contributors Do Not Necessarily Make Good Managers Or Great Leaders
Where do leaders first learn their leadership skills?
Usually this comes from two sources: a) the leadership behaviors and actions of the bosses they have had throughout the early stages of their careers, and b) being thrown into the front lines of leadership with little more than expressions of confidence and best wishes by their managers.
Unfortunately, great individual contributors do not necessarily make good managers or great leaders. When promoted into supervisory or managerial roles, they tend to focus on the managerial aspects of processes, reporting, and executing what they are told.
As a result, they are totally unprepared for the critical leadership skills of coaching, providing feedback, increasing employee engagement, motivating team members, obtaining buy-in and commitment, fueling innovation, and generating new ideas.
Transitioning from a successful individual contributor role into a supervisory or manager position is fraught with challenges, concerns, and worries. This is a profound change with high risks of failure, personal dissatisfaction, team disenchantment, and even team member disengagement.
In many organizations, training is primarily focused on developing technical skills — creating managers and individual contributors who are functionally knowledgeable and competent in their respective jobs but who are not trained in the fundamentals of leading people.
One area of particular weakness in mid-level leaders and new supervisors that I have noticed in my 25 years of international leadership development training is their inability to give relevant, useful, and beneficial feedback. This inexperience and lack of expertise in proper feedback methodology significantly handicaps their ability to lead other team members.
Periods of high revenue growth often mask shortcomings in talent development, particularly within fast-growing small businesses and privately-owned companies. Gaps in existing leadership skills and competencies tend to go unnoticed when revenue is rapidly increasing year after year. It is only when growth suddenly declines that company owners and leaders become acutely aware of the significant shortfalls in leadership talent at all levels of the organization that is creating a bottleneck to continued growth.
Our best advice: don’t let these leadership development shortfalls happen to you. As I wrote in the previous post, great leaders take charge of their own leadership development.
This article is excerpted from my book Great Leadership Words of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats and has over 1000 quotes on leadership from global business leaders, statesmen, athletes, coaches, sages, and philosophers.