by Michael Holland     

Are you a leader or a functional leader?  Companies expect leaders to be generally strong at leading others and specifically strong at leading functions.  Unfortunately many leaders grow up within specific business functions, gaining experience and greater levels of authority.  The scope of responsibility is a combination of people leadership and technical mastery.  And when these leaders hit the ripe age of their mid-40s, they have successfully prepared themselves to become complacent with leading.  They know the ins and outs of the business function and adequately lead their areas, but lack a depth of curiosity and passion for actual leadership.  So they have a tendency to go on an auto pilot of sorts.

Think about the leaders of finance, IT, human resources, operations, sales.  They are recruited and groomed because they have deep functional expertise. Now think about the really great leaders you have known or read about.  Most often, these leaders gained experience and wisdom through diverse leadership experiences.  This diversity allows multiple lenses to be used when viewing and assessing situations, strategies, and solutions.

Ponder This: You have been asked to lead a business function or team that is completely outside your functional knowledge base.  Maybe you’re an HR leader being asked to run finance, or a sales leader being asked to run IT.  How exactly would you lead this group?  How would you establish the goals, how would you make timely decisions, what methods and tools would you utilize to understand the momentum of the group?  And maybe the most important question: How much time would you invest in knowing and trusting the people you lead?