RSS From “Doing” to “Leading”

I had a wonderful conversation a month ago with one of my teammates, who expressed interest in some of the leadership thoughts I shared in past blog posts.  As a result of that conversation, I thought I would attempt to articulate a possible stumbling block for individuals who are promoted into positions of leadership.  To be quite candid, I believe that not every individual in a leadership position has earned the right to be referred to as a leader. 

Some individuals assume a leadership position because they are extremely smart or exceptionally talented at performing certain tasks.  Sometimes, an organization feels it necessary to reward this type of individual with a promotion, in an effort to differentiate their value to the organization.  It could be someone of long tenure, or someone who has quickly garnered recognition at the highest level of the organization.   I understand that it is necessary to promote individuals at times in order to retain your best talent.  What I think gets missed, however, is that these professional advancements often put this individual into a position of leadership without effectively evaluating their leadership quotient.  It makes me wonder, do organizations that opt to promote an employee simply because they are more knowledgeable, more skilled or create more tangible bottom line value, really bear the skills necessary to lead?  

I have seen many examples throughout my career where someone of superior knowledge gets promoted, leading the team or organization to falter, due to a lack of adequate leadership education from the organization itself.   Allow me to use a rather elementary analogy to make my point.   A star employee is often great at “doing” something, while a star leader is great at getting their organization to accomplish great things.  The skill set of “doing” does not inherently translate into the skill set of “leading.”  To be a star employee, you have to effectively manage your own time, create tangible value for your organization and demonstrate a very good work ethic over a long period of time.  To be a leader, you have to create an environment where each team member is performing activities and tasks for which they are uniquely skilled and trained, and to coordinate individual and team activities in such a way as to create sustainable organizational success. 

So how does one move effectively from being a great “doer” into a position of leadership?  I feel the most important thing is that they must change their individual priority away from personal accomplishment and toward the professional development of their team members.  While all leaders have specific tasks they need to perform in order to effectively execute their formal responsibilities, the thing I have noticed about many new leaders is that they fail to establish themselves as an effective resource to their team members.  They think of leadership as simply managing people or overseeing specific outcomes rather than raising a person’s vision to higher sights.  They are more likely to finish an activity for a team member to meet an important deadline, rather than coach an employee on how and why an important strategic objective must be accomplished within an established timeline. 

It’s funny to me that many organizations simply take the view that a “star” employee will be a “star” leader no matter what position they assume.  It’s possible that some people are born to be leaders; however, from my perspective leadership is not an inherited characteristic, it is one that is nurtured and cultivated over a long period of time.

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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