article

Leadership

Revel Gordon

The step up from manager to leader is one of the most challenging transitions in the corporate world. Continuing to focus on the skills and behaviours that have propelled you into senior management can actually limit your success once you’ve reached the corner office. As the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s excellent book puts it: “What got you here won’t get you there”.

The early and middle stages of a successful executive’s career focus on “doing”. For example, the sales executive who beats his numbers and outperforms his peers, or the IT or engineering executive who delivers even the most complex projects on time and on budget. These up and comers get noticed. If they combine competence with political savvy and eQ, they get promoted, fast.

Yet the further up the corporate ladder you move, the less time you spend using your original skills. Great CFO’s spend relatively little time poring over spreadsheets, and outstanding CIO’s do not run IT programs. Instead, they attract and retain talented people within their teams, who they then trust with these tasks.

Whatever they started out as – be it a sales exec or an accountant or a project manager – the most effective senior executives recognise that their “job” now is to be a leader. As a result, they make developing and improving their leadership capabilities a top priority.

Leadership is a skill that can be learned, and even ‘natural’ leaders can always do better. After all, Roger Federer still spends hours a day working on his game. As a senior executive, your ‘game’ is leadership. So whether you read books and articles, seek out mentors, or engage an executive coach, by actively focusing on improving your leadership skills you will be maximizing the odds of turning an already successful career into an exceptional one.

The step up from manager to leader is one of the most challenging transitions in the corporate world. Continuing to focus on the skills and behaviours that have propelled you into senior management can actually limit your success once you’ve reached the corner office. As the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s excellent book puts it: “What got you here won’t get you there”.

The early and middle stages of a successful executive’s career focus on “doing”. For example, the sales executive who beats his numbers and outperforms his peers, or the IT or engineering executive who delivers even the most complex projects on time and on budget. These up and comers get noticed. If they combine competence with political savvy and eQ, they get promoted, fast.

Yet the further up the corporate ladder you move, the less time you spend using your original skills. Great CFO’s spend relatively little time poring over spreadsheets, and outstanding CIO’s do not run IT programs. Instead, they attract and retain talented people within their teams, who they then trust with these tasks.

Whatever they started out as – be it a sales exec or an accountant or a project manager – the most effective senior executives recognise that their “job” now is to be a leader. As a result, they make developing and improving their leadership capabilities a top priority.

Leadership is a skill that can be learned, and even ‘natural’ leaders can always do better. After all, Roger Federer still spends hours a day working on his game. As a senior executive, your ‘game’ is leadership. So whether you read books and articles, seek out mentors, or engage an executive coach, by actively focusing on improving your leadership skills you will be maximizing the odds of turning an already successful career into an exceptional one.