I have worked with leaders with different levels of experience and knowledge about how to lead in a strategic way. Some of them are new to the role as a leader, whilst others have had limited opportunity to grow as a leader. All of them are smart and driven and most have been successful because they excel in their field of expertise. As they take the step forward to lead their organizations they are hungry to be successful and learn how they can be better leaders. They do not lack motivation, passion or ability and they are regarded as top talent in their organizations but they do face new challenges and need to learn and develop quickly in their leadership skills. The challenge becomes more profound when the opportunity is bigger and they rely on working in larger organizations or in collaboration with others outside of their direct control. Many of these people have gone on to very successful career transitions. However, this is not the case for those who do not change or make adjustments to how they work. We sometimes describe the situation by citing the “Peter” principle - people are promoted until they reach a level of incompetence. We also see people who are “hired for their expertise and fired for attitude”. Organizations hire the top expertise in the field who then fail due to dysfunctional behaviors or poor organizational fit. This is an expensive way to do business, both in the recruitment costs of finding the talent and the cost of removing the person to a place where they cannot do any harm.
In other cases, leaders find themselves in a situation where the leadership style that made them successful in a small company is not the style that will make him successful as an organization grows in size and scope or visa-versa. These leaders have to grow and adapt to their situation and the broader the responsibility they have as a leader. They also have to broaden their leadership toolkit.
In my experience, some leaders think about how they want to make the most of their opportunity going forward, they understand that their leadership can have a big impact on the success or failure of the organization. They also appreciate that there are challenges to being a great leader and that leadership requires that they be competent and skilled in many different ways and they wear many different hats. They are both motivated to be successful and have a track record of success. So what is the immediate problem they have to solve? As they look to develop the leadership skills they find that there is an overwhelming amount of information and ideas – some may be useful and others not so helpful. How do they prioritize what to read and what help to seek?
Leadership Resources- How do we Prioritize?
To illustrate the point of the amount of material that is available on the subject of leadership, consider a Google search on these terms on any given day. The term “leadership” yields 814 million hits, “management” 2860 million, “leadership challenges” 280 million and “management challenges” 448 million. By refining the search the numbers are still incredibly high – “strategic leadership” 13.4 million hits, “leadership presence” 1.5 million, “leadership journey” 97.9, “scientific leadership” 159 million, “start-up leadership” 75.6 million, “great leaders” 414 million and “bad leaders” 152 million. Finally, looking at some of the basic skills of leadership terms these also yield incredible numbers of hits – “emotional intelligence” 16.2 million hits, “leadership psychology” 154 million, “collaboration” 522 million hits, “teams” 1630 million hits, “decision making” 236 million, “change management” 74.7 million and “empathy” 52.1 million. To put this into perspective a search for “Taylor Swift” yields 82.5 million and “Game of Thrones” 173 million hits. Any one of these searches yields enough reading material for a lifetime. I will not pretend to have read even a fraction of the materials available but through my experience in my corporate and executive coaching practice, it is possible to simplify which areas to focus on. The question is where to begin and what to focus on?
The problem statement for leaders can be summarized with the following questions:
How can you come to grips with the overwhelming amount of information, ideas and help that is available in the area of leadership, leadership development and management?
What do you focus your limited time and attention on and how do you prioritize what to read and to seek help?
How can you pinpoint areas of development of your leadership, which has the highest return on investment and involvement?
How do you ensure that you are managing your reputation to have the biggest impact on your productivity and that of your team?
Many leaders, in today’s world of information overload and complexity, benefit from the help of someone who has experienced some of the challenges they face and have real life knowledge of what works well and what does not. One of the roles a coach can play to help leaders become more successful is to help them navigate the many aspects of leadership and help them identify where they can focus and have the biggest impact. A coach can be a valuable learning partner for leaders who are starting out on their leadership journey or further down the road.
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