IS leadership overrated? I have often grappled with this question. The fact that one holds a position barely qualifies one to be a leader. Some folks manage to deceive themselves into believing that they are leaders. Why? Because they hold a position?
In my life, I have worked with leaders who served for a cause. Some served in the military, and some I have worked with in my role. Some leaders I thought I knew withered away after we moved on – out of sight, out of mind. We barely kept in touch. Then there were those who I genuinely respected, who turned out to be friends for life.
Many schools preach and offer how to become a great leader. Once we tear down the facade and peel away the layers, it comes down to what is left in the bare and naked form of humanity: the human personality. After all, you cannot teach people to be nice. Leadership traits are the same; either you have them, or you do not. You cannot fake it for long.
In some instances, I have seen how the dynamics of power-play work. Actions speak louder than words. Most often, people see games people play. I have witnessed how power-hungry managers wield power by inspiring a few for some time before the disillusion sets in.
In my life, I have experienced my staff and myself in a situation and daily interactions with regions of the unpredictability of social risk and terrorism.
Speaking for myself as a CEO, I am constantly facing dilemmas, this year alone, between COVID-19 lockdown and customer fears, facilitating movements of people from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and helping customers reenter frontier markets. Thus, I am reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
I believe some of the most critical leadership behaviors and characteristics are needed, and here are three ways you can go about finding your future leaders as I did.
First, we can all attest that promotions are still essentially a reward for past performance. Organizations continue to assume the attributes that have made someone successful so far will continue to make them successful in the future (even if their responsibilities change). This may explain why there are still many incompetent leaders.
Therefore, organizations that wish to select the best people for leadership roles need to change how they evaluate candidates. When choosing, ask yourself three questions:
1. Does the candidate have the skills to be a high-performing contributor or the skills to be an effective leader?
The performance level of individual contributors is mainly measured through their ability, likability, and drive. Leadership, by contrast, demands a broader range of character traits, including high levels of integrity and low levels of dark-side behaviors born out of negative attributes likes narcissism or psychopathy.
The difference between these two skill sets explains why great athletes often end up being mediocre coaches (and vice versa) and why high performers often fail to succeed in leadership positions.
We all know that the most successful salespeople, software developers, and stockbrokers have exceptional technical skills, domain knowledge, discipline, and abilities to self-manage. However, can those same skills be used to get a group of people to ignore their selfish agendas and cooperate effectively as a team? Probably not. Leaders need to obtain a certain level of technical competence to establish their credibility, but too much expertise in a single area can be a handicap. Experts are often hindered by fixed mindsets and narrow views, which result from their years of experience. Great leaders, however, can remain open and adapt, no matter how experienced they are. They succeed because they can continually learn.
2. Can I trust this candidate’s individual performance measures?
The most common indicator of someone’s performance is a single subjective rating by a direct line manager. This makes performance measures vulnerable to bias, politics, and an employee’s ability to manage up. Although peer-based and network-oriented performance management are growing, it is still in its infancy. As a result, performance measures may not be as reliable as you think.
This is likely why women tend to be promoted less than men, even when their performance is identical. Many organizations promote people into leadership positions because they “create the right impression,” even if their actual contributions are minimal.
If you ask yourself the above question, and the answer is “no,” take some time to think about what good leadership looks like at your company. Are you looking for leaders who can drive great results? Bring people together? Listen and develop others? Or are you looking for leaders who can connect, innovate, and help evolve the business? Every company needs different types of leaders at different times, and someone who performs well in their current role may not be the right person to help you reach your most immediate goals.
3. Am I looking forward or backward?
For me, the secret to selecting great leaders is to predict the future, not to reward the past!
Every organization faces the problem of how to identify the people who are most likely to lead your teams through growing complexity, uncertainty, and change. Such individuals may have a very different profile from those who have succeeded in the past, as well as from those who are succeeding in the present.
Avoid promoting entirely based on culture fit. Although you may have good intentions in doing it, it often results in a lack of diversity of thought and outdated leadership models. In today’s ever-changing world, businesses are expected to grow as fast as the technologies
Their models must be in constant transformation. What worked in the past and what is working in the present may not work at all in the future. We at Al Thuraya holdings are comfortable about thinking outside the box. This means taking “misfits” or “people who think differently” and placing them into leadership roles. We give them support and time to prove themselves. This is how we deepen your leadership pipeline.
You should also take an extra look at the people who “may not be ready” and analyze them on the basis of their ambition, reputation, and passion for your business. Often the youngest, most agile, and most confident people turn into incredible leaders, I know, I have them in my leadership team.
It’s time to rethink the notion of leadership. If you move beyond promoting those with the most competence and start thinking more about those who can get you where you want to go, your company will thrive. In other words, start considering those who have high potential, not just top performers.