Being great vs. Being a great leader

Technically amazing. Not so good with people?

We used to get told a lot that it was the professional services industry that ran into trouble with leadership because they had technically amazing people who lacked any leadership skills once they became managers of people. It seemed to us that management training was a low priority for many of these businesses. People were recruited for their incredible technical skills, and if they really excelled they moved up through the ranks and became managers. There is often an assumption that because the required skill set for the role is high, they will also be great at taking care of other people who might aspire to that role.

Of course, the reality is quite different. Managing people is a skill set in itself and all too often there is a much lower investment made into teaching our people how to do this well. We found this strange given that most people’s reasons for staying in and loving a job these days is based on having a great set of colleagues and direct reports who they respect, trust and learn from. This is a hard thing to accomplish when the leader of the business or team is given very little opportunity to develop their people skills.

We have also found that this is absolutely not limited to professional services. We’ve seen this phenomenon across industries and it is mind-blowing.

Companies that are investing in the leadership skills of their people are greatly out-performing those that are not. They are more sustainable, have greater retention and attract the best talent in the market. It may seem obvious as to why this is but we feel the secret is somewhat below the surface.

Quality leadership training is not just about people developing skills to lead once they reach a certain level. Sustainable leaders learn how to coach others and transfer their knowledge and skills to those around them. They are open to the learning that comes from their own teams about themselves and are continuously developing themselves. This type of leadership skill should be developed early and nurtured through the culture of a business so it becomes part of just “how we do things around here”.

Don’t get us wrong, we believe that it is never too late to introduce strong leadership skills training into an organisation. However, the sooner you begin and the earlier you start, the greater impact it will make on the people within the company for the future.