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To Lead or not to Lead….

Optimize Blog - May 8, 2013 - 0 comments

One question we get asked from time to time from individuals being coached is whether we think that they would make a good leader. This crisis of confidence is actually a good thing because at least it allows the individual to contemplate what it actually means to be a leader. For some however they just view leadership as the next step in their career path and it becomes an ‘automatic’ decision rather than a considered one.
Too often we see the career-formula leader’s crash and burn as they never really took the time to understand the role and the burden and responsibility that comes with leadership. They never really understood the requirements of leadership and what it takes to be successful.
The question of “Can I be a leader?” harks back to the debate over whether leaders are born or made. As we have stated before, leadership skills are learned and the inability or unwillingness to accept this fact often results in people in leadership roles ill equipped to execute the role.
In parallel we often see client companies promoting internal candidates based on technical ability or high performance in their current role with little consideration of their potential to be successful in a leadership role. It is even considered by some to be a reward for their performance to date or worse, as an expectation of career advancement.
This delivers a sense of well-being for the organization and the individual in the short term but can quickly turn into a poor decision as the new leader flounders through lack of leadership development prior to taking up the role and early intervention and support in the first weeks and months of executing the role. This happens frequently where organizations consider that they have a succession plan but in reality it is a ‘replacement plan’. These are two distinctly different things.
High potential employees should be assessed regularly for leadership potential but should receive leadership development training prior to any consideration for a leadership role. Another useful approach is to expose potential leaders to leadership secondments, not just to assess their performance but also to feedback areas for development into their Personal Development Plan.
The world is a busy place and all too often we see organizations with good intentions still unable to release individuals for this type of development due to ‘pressing business as usual issues’. This is short-sighted and demonstrates an inability to balance the urgent with the important.
Leadership development programs need to be a fundamental part of an organizations strategy but fundamentally it cannot be isolated just to those already in leadership roles.

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