expert = leader?

Posted on Saturday.5.2.2009



I’ve always wondered about the phenomenon of promotions to leadership in any career or organization. In most places of work, the promotion goes to the person that does their job the best. What I think is interesting about that is your supervisor/boss has basically said, “You did this job great, I want you to do something else now (lead)!” Of course the draw of the promotion is always more money…but does that not make sense to anyone else?

Let me make it more concrete. You’re the best salesman of the company and are reaching sales numbers of no one in your department and you’ve just made tons of money for your company. You’ve been successful for years and now your boss wants you to be the sales manager or vice president of sales. To me, this doesn’t necessarily sound like the best person for the job. Here’s why:

1. If she’s such a great salesman, why would you want to remove her from sales and give her a different job where she’s not selling anymore?
2. She’s been a great salesman, does that equate to her being able to manage/lead people?

I think there is high value on selecting the most accomplished salesman to be your sales manager or higher. I think there’s a higher likelihood that she not only will not be the best in her new position but may not even feel energized to be there, besides the extra zero in her paycheck.

I think it makes more sense to find people who are not necessarily the experts but the people who have the most leadership potential. I don’t think we value this enough. I think too much emphasis is put on the expertise of a person rather than their leadership IQ.

A company/organization will be much better off hiring the 5th salesman down the list who is able to gather her troops and bring the group to the next level. Not only have you not taken away your best salesman, you’ve chosen someone who wants the good for the team instead of someone who can close a deal with a client. You’re hiring a leader who needs to move group numbers not shmooz clients.

Here’s my formula: expertise=35%, leadership IQ=65%.
Current formula: expertise=75-95%, leadership IQ=5-25%.

You do need to know your trade, that is extremely important. I just don’t think it’s the end all. So, is the best teacher a good principal? The best graphic designer a good art director? The best engineer a good project coordinator? The best surgeon a good chief? The best musician the best frontman? Michael Jordan has always been mediocre if not terrible in the front office and will never be a good coach. But as a player, he was the greatest.

Our current promotion model values expertise and individual results. I think the leader has to know the trade, understand the people, see the vision then produce results for the team.

What do you think?

Posted in: vision