What if we valued leadership skills as much as we value a degree in medicine? Think about it. Is there a graduate degree for leadership? Not really. There is an MBA which is often equated with someone being able to lead, but it’s really about understanding business theory and working through case studies about how business actually works. There are PhDs for Leadership Development meaning the development of others or organizational development, but not for leadership per se. There isn’t a standardized degree program with an accompanying set of initials that we all recognize like “M.D.” to indicate someone has an advanced degree in the art of leadership.
I think the reason is because so many leaders end up being in a leadership position for one or more of the following reasons:
- Only one who showed any willingness to take on the role
- Longest one at the company or the organization
- Biggest schmoozer on the board or among decision-makers
- Best salesman or woman of themselves
- Has the most money to advance themselves or donate to the right person
- Accidentally in the right place at the right time
- Relative of the decision-maker
- Best of the bad choices/candidates available
Most of these are a “default” in some way and none of them is particularly positive. The result? Most organizations’ leadership is somewhat accidental and often unintentional. As I’ve discussed in my book and in my talk on Intentional Culture, intention can make the difference between success and failure in an organization, so putting some intention on the leadership is critical.
This means deciding what makes a good leader for the organization. What background and knowledge do they need to have? What temperament will fit with the organization’s style, mission, vision and culture? What skills do they need to have to bring the vision to reality? It’s as much about character as it is about skills. We’ve all experienced the train wreck that happens when the best sales person is promoted to the sales manager. Selling and leading others to sell are different yet equally important skills. We conflate the two all the time to the detriment of the person being promoted and those they will lead.
If we were intentional about training and supporting leaders, for each organization it would be a bit different. Boards and advisors would be set up to help, not to “check” the performance of the leader. Vision of the organization would be paramount, not the pay package or the leader’s golden parachute. Money would not influence, but would be a reward for the company doing well.
Next time you think about promoting someone into a leadership role consider the following:
- Do they truly want a leadership role?
- Have they demonstrated the ability to get work done through others?
- Have they shown humility?
- Do they have the respect of the team?
- Are their values aligned with the vision and the organization?
- What support/training will the organization make available for them to be successful?
If you are clear on some of these questions, maybe, just maybe, you’ll create an Intentional Leader.