CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PROMOTION
Miami Heat President Pat Riley knows more than a little bit about leadership and climbing the professional ladder. With five stints as coach of NBA championship winning teams and over 1,200 career victories, he was once quoted as saying, “Being ready isn’t enough. You have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.” Being ready versus being prepared . . . believe it or not, there is a substantial difference there.
You just met with your CEO, and because you are the most technically skilled at your firm, you are promoted to leader of your division. Now what? How will you lead your team? What is your leadership philosophy? Has your technical training prepared you to be a leader? The answers to these questions depend on the situation, the firm’s culture and your own conditioning and perspective on leadership. Because you are so technically proficient, you may feel ready. But are you prepared?
When I asked our panel of “Future of Everything” organizational development professionals if they believed that the traditional management paradigm worked, they all answered no. It wasn’t that they believed management was unimportant. It was that despite the clear distinction between management and leadership definitions, organizations continue to use these terms interchangeably.
From the panel’s perspective, every role in a company requires varying amounts of both management and leadership, and these require two different sets of skills. Therefore, unless we condition our talent towards being able to lead, we are left with talented technical managers, but not many who will succeed when people and complex situations enter the equation. Indeed, the biggest worry I hear from Fortune 500 companies and smaller firms alike is that the next business crisis will be in leadership.
In your new leadership role, you may be able to compartmentalize decisions and tasks, but how much leading will you do? How much mentoring, visioning, strategizing and relationship building will you engage in? This depends largely on the organization’s culture. If your firm’s culture rewards solo work, then a more managerial auditing style will be successful. If the culture rewards collaboration, then visionary leadership behaviors are important. Your success depends on situational adaptation and leadership conditioning; however, when we promote someone, do we really consider this or do we just “assume” someone can lead? There is a need for a more thoughtful approach to determining who we promote.
In the case of your fictitious promotion, you advanced because of your technical ability. This is the basis of many promotions. Unfortunately, this may not be enough for your success. The panel believed that in the future, leadership abilities will be better taught and measured, and that promotions will result from a blend of technical, management and leadership competencies.
When taking a promotion, consider these steps:
- Be clear that you want to be a leader. Remaining in a technical role if that’s where your heart lies is ok too.
- Don’t assume that leading is easy. It takes a lifetime of experience to master, if you ever do.
- Be authentic. It was who you are that got you the promotion, and how you currently behave is recognized as your leadership style.
- Don’t act right away. Wait, listen and observe things before creating change. This will give you time to create the relationships you need in your new role.
- Spend at least one hour per week thinking, discussing and strategizing your leadership impact. Seek feedback from a mentor or coach.
There are three likely outcomes of your promotion: You’ll grow nicely in the new role, you won’t do so well and give up the position, or worse yet, you won’t do well but will stay in the role too long. There’s clearly a lot at stake. People who have been mentored well and have honed their relational skills will excel. In the future, your leadership character will matter as much as the school you attended and accomplishments achieved. Scaffold your technical knowledge with leadership learning and be prepared to lead. By the way, congratulations on your promotion.
Under the direction of Bedford, NH-based executive leadership coaching firm Sojourn Partners, The Future of Everything Project brings together panels of thought leaders from diverse backgrounds and interests to brainstorm and proactively craft a vision of “what can be.” Core project participants on this topic included Rick Gallin, HR Director at Veeco Solar, Morgan Smith, Director of Organizational Development at Catholic Medical Center and Fran Allain, Employee Retention Manager for the NH Division of Economic Development.
Dr. Russ Ouellette is the managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership coaching firm. He can be reached at (603) 472-8103 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be twittered @RussOuellette or Facebooked – Sojourn Partners.