Every day, people are promoted into leadership who are completely unqualified to lead. People are placed in a leadership role because they’re a good performer who’s overdue for a promotion or because they act the part—even though they’re completely unequipped to motivate or coach people. Or the board selects a CEO who excels at processes and procedures but doesn’t connect with people.
In most cases, a leadership role requires an entirely different set of skills and aptitudes than the work that got them there. Maybe that’s why a Gallup report found that companies pick the wrong managerial candidates 82 percent of the time—a frightening statistic, since managers have the greatest impact on employee engagement.
My work as a leadership coach and business consultant often brings me into contact with leaders who are unqualified to lead, here are six excellent reasons why this is true:
1. Power and authority don’t qualify. While unqualified leaders try to gain authority from titles, successful leaders earn authority by establishing mutual trust and accountability among colleagues. Leadership is not a title but a behavior.
2. Processes doesn’t motivate. Some people love designing processes and procedures, and every organization needs people with that expertise. But successful leaders focus on people, not processes. How things work is less important than who makes them work.
3. Explanations don’t engage or empower. The worst leaders will tell you how things should be done simply because they believe they know best. The best will navigate the way and then guide your journey. True leaders are selfless and consider it a privilege to serve and connect with others.
4. “My way or the highway” doesn’t inspire. Leadership requires courageous thought and innovative creativity; it prizes inclusion and diversity. But an unqualified and insecure leader is likely to be rigid and cautious in their thinking and value obedience and conformity in their team.
5. Competence doesn’t communicate. The most important element of leadership is communication and connection, drawing people in. When a worker is promoted into leadership because of their competence in a particular area, they may have no clue about the interpersonal requirements of their new position. It’s understandable that they’d just want to close their office door and do what they know how to do.
6. Success can’t happen in a silo. An unqualified leader with a sudden promotion is likely to be more invested in their own success story than in the people around them. But successful leaders know true leadership becomes ineffective, if not impossible, without teamwork and respect for other people.
It’s possible for even the most unqualified leader to succeed if they’re willing to let go of old patterns and undertake a lot of new learning.
Lead from within: True leadership lies in guiding others to success and ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well, by unleashing their greatness and minding their gaps.
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