If you were to ask the majority of leaders if they felt prepared for the role they are in, the answers you would receive might not be what you would expect to hear. In fact, statistically most leaders are under or not well prepared for assuming the leadership role they are in. So how does this happen?
Perhaps you have heard of “The Peter Principle”? If not, it’s basically the concept that many leaders in organizations keep getting promoted until they reach a level of respective incompetence. This isn’t exactly reassuring when you look around and wonder if perhaps the leader of your organization fits this description. Worse, is when this might in fact be you, and you know you are in a role well beyond your capabilities.
When you consider the experience leaders are expected to have prior to stepping into their respective role, you would expect them to have been vetted along the way. For starters, being proficient and capable of assuming this role. However, this is a gross assumption. It is also one of the ways people who become leaders, and who are weak ones end up in a leadership role. The problem is partially with the lack of checks and balances of the leadership vetting system.
Another challenge which allows weak or ill prepared leaders to step into their roles, is the fact there are too many “yes” people in organizations. If you are not familiar with “yes” people, chances are you might be one. In other words, it is far easier for people to agree and say “yes” to a leader, than it is to disagree.
When someone does not agree with a leader, and they are not trusted and respected by the leader, they run the risk of being labeled contentious or difficult. Although in reality, strong leaders would want more people to say “no” or not agree with everything.
So, what can be done to prepare leaders to be ones we look up to, are motivated by and respect? Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- You probably have heard of an intervention. The ones typically associated with someone who has a severe problem and a group of people gather together to support getting the person with the problem help. The same concept can apply to weak leaders, and should be organized with the support of the head of human resources. If it is a small company, the second person in command of the company, along with the majority of the upper management team should be involved. I highly recommend you consult also with an outside and neutral party experienced in this type of intervention.
- In less dramatic situations, assigning someone to open the dialogue with the leader about how they view their leadership style is a strong place to start. Often, the leader is unaware others perceive their leadership capabilities and style in a less than desirable manner.
- Don’t assume your leader has had recent or relevant training to help support their role.
- Leadership training is something which should be ongoing throughout their career.
- If your leader has not taken leadership training in the last 6-12 months, it’s time for them to take a course. This can be monitored by the head of HR, or if you are the leader, make sure you have recently taken a leadership course.
- If you are a leader, consider joining a group of CEO’s to help support your leadership evolution. There are a number of these groups throughout the country, and chances are you might have one in your city. If not, there are virtual CEO “round table” groups you can consider joining.
- Determine what type of strengths the leader relies upon the most. This can be done with the assistance of a number of different and objective testing methods. Being a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, I can highly recommend the StrengthsFinder survey which can determine what their top (5) strengths are. I have leveraged the results of this survey to help numerous leaders, as well as the people and the teams who support them. I guarantee it will be one of the best and most affordable investments you can and should consider.
Having responsibility for others and their careers and livelihood is an enormous responsibility. Since most people are not born leaders, but instead become and evolve into this role, recognize they are generally not prepared well for the role they are in. When you look at and realize your leader is in this situation, your expectations will be more realistically set for the outcome of what they are capable of achieving.
Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coach, author of Wisdom Whisperer, and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances.
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