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Welcome to the Leadership Alliance blog. We will be making posts about issues related to many aspects of talent management and leadership development. We are going to start out on a very relevant topic around the research of how successful careers are developed.
The problem with leadership is that everyone thinks they are an expert. Go to Amazon and type the word “leadership” and you get more than 96,000 listings of books. While the next set of blog posts won’t tell you how to be an effective leader, it will show you based on the research of Korn/Ferry-Lominger how to develop as a leader.
When you look at the careers of successful leaders, they do these four things well:
So let’s look at the first hallmark of success, Making Transitions. We see from the work of Finkelstein (2003), “Why smart executives fail,” that most managers succeed or fail during four major activities: creating new ventures, dealing with innovation and change, managing mergers and acquisitions and responding to new competitive pressures. All of these obviously have a strong component of change in common. Why is that important? Because development is the world of the first time and different – the varied and the adverse. Change creates a need to learn and most learning happens when we are in transition. These changes, being pushed out of our comfort zone, force us to develop new skills and competencies. And this is key because what is important for success changes throughout our career. The skills and competencies you need to be successful as an individual contributor are different from managerial skills, which are again different from executive competencies. As you move up the ladder, you need to be more strategic, less action-oriented, more empowering and develop others more.
The problem is that many managers don’t make these changes. According to the research of Korn/Ferry-Lominger based on thousands of 360-degree feedbacks, many managers and executives continue to overuse the individual contributor skills they started with. They continue to be top rated by others in competencies such as Action-Oriented, Functional Technical Skills, Customer Focus, Ethics and Values, and Integrity and Trust. While you could make the argument that these competencies are important in our leaders, if you look at those competencies that these same leaders score lowest on, you may be shocked. Among the bottom ten-rated competencies for leaders (out of 67) are: Motivating Others, Confronting Direct Reports, Managing Vision and Purpose, Conflict Management, and Developing Direct Reports.
So what do we make of all of this? Successful leaders, those rated as top performers, tend to score higher on these leadership competencies than those rated average or below. Those who were able to make these transitions, learn new skills and grow continue to perform well as they climb the ladder, versus the average manager who continues to over-rely on what has worked for them in the past.