by Michael Holland    

A 52-year-old vice president struggles to keep his job.  While “successful” throughout his career, it seems he now lacks the leadership capability to adequately enable his team of 60-plus folks to achieve basic success. He also lacks the introspection to see that his domineering, “take-the-hill-at-all-costs” style has disengaged him from not only his team, but also many peers and his boss.  What he perceives as the talent that got him here will ultimately be the cause of his downfall.  If he had only had the opportunity to learn how to lead well early in his career, maybe things would have turned out differently.

But every so often, a company gets lucky.  They happen to promote a young leader who is technically adept and happens to have had both the life experiences and decent mentors to guide the development of the soft side of leadership.  The young leader came to the company with a treasure chest full of talent, though likely the company has no idea of exactly the true value of that talent.  She came to the company knowing. . . .

  • She came to the company knowing how she impacts others with her results-oriented communications style.
  • She came in knowing how to take feedback constructively and, conversely, how to provide timely, constructive feedback.
  • She came in knowing what truly motivates her beyond the standard triggers of shallow corporate recognition and hours in the office.
  • She came in knowing conflict more often signals miscommunication and misunderstood expectations rather than a dislike of others.
  • She came in wanting to make things better while achieving great success.
  • She came in knowing how to disarm the bullies and lift up the dreams of her peers.
  • She came in knowing time invested in introspection pays huge dividends in future behavior choices.

Building leaders requires time and energy spent educating young leaders on the science of managing others and on the art of influencing.  There are no short cuts, and there are no special pills.  You have to invest in building management intelligence and leadership capability and, most importantly, you must provide above-average mentorship to these young, aspiring leaders.  It is in this last area, above-average mentorship, which companies seem to be the most lacking. Because they have grown and built merely average leaders who lack leadership maturity in their own work, they have no one to adequately provide the model of leadership young leaders should follow.

Now, let’s think back to our 52-year-old vice president and the countless leaders who worked for him throughout his career. How has the company limited their effectiveness and growth as leaders as they try to follow his model?  And what has the impact been on the company’s leadership capacity?

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Grab a peer leader and discuss how much you each know – or would like to know – about “the science of managing others and on the art of influencing.”
  • Which bullet in the list resonates the most for you?  Why?
  • What can you do to help the leaders under you so that they don’t end up like the 52-year-old vice president? What can you do for yourself?