Leadership is not a glass slipper, but you still have to make sure it fits! It’s a fun keynote topic I deliver, but also a cautionary tale about the value of leadership fit and how often organizations miss it. One cannot promote people who are not prepared and expect them to excel just because they’ve been given a new title. Organizations cause significant damage when they promote folks beyond their competence, as we’ve known for years, and far more damage is done still when leaders spend less time determining if a promotable candidate fits than they do on the calculations for next year’s budget. Leadership fit is a critical attribute of a leaders’ success and yet, in light of what happens more often than not, perhaps we should talk about when there’s NOT a fit and how to fix it.
If it’s true that most leaders spend more time planning lunch dates than job fits, consider what that prioritization does for a minute. Stop doing that! J Think and observe and examine for a minute all the factors that must be considered when promoting a new person into a position of leadership in which they will influence and guide the actions, outcomes, and results of many more team members. Weigh the options. Create a plan. Document areas in which training or development could be a solution if simply skills are deficient. What does that person need to be a fit? Is the replacement of the entire existing team? Then you don’t have a fit to begin with. Consider your current position. Did you really want to be a leader in the first place? Did you want this promotion or do you want what the new salary is supposed to provide? If you’re a leader will your wife finally approve of who you are as a man? If you’re a leader will you finally be free of depending on any man? These are merely two of the bigger issues that deserve your attention before you can say a role is a fit. Stop and think for a minute about why you want to be a leader, lead other people, or take on that privilege and responsibility in the first place.
If you were to ever literally force a square peg in a round hole, you’d see it break the wood around the opening. Rarely would we consider doing something so silly for real, but it happens daily in companies around the world. If the work to put a new leader in place gets complicated, complex, or convoluted before or immediately following their answer of yes, this is a sign you’ve not made a good fit. Other circumstances could be at play and perhaps there is a need for this kind of forced change, but by and large, forcing things is not a recipe for success. Taking on challenges, stretching yourself, stepping out of one’s comfort zone, yes, but forcing a shoe to fit isn’t it. One of the more morbid versions told of the Cinderella slipper analogy is that the evil step sisters attempted to cut off some of their toes for the slipper, and thus marriage to the Prince, to fit. If you feel like you’re having to go to that much effort, stop for a moment and reexamine the common sense of what you’re doing.
“It” could refer to leadership as a concept or it could be an acronym for Intellectual and Technical Skills. Both are applicable when it comes to a leadership fit and a person fitting into it. If there is a poor fit one is trying to fix, the easiest areas to look for solutions first are technical skills and intellectual aptitude. Do they have the functional capabilities to perform the job? Do they have the capacity to learn how to do the job? If both questions are answered in the affirmative, the question remains, then what IS it that creates the poor fit? Namely, the belief that technical skills and intellectual abilities are all there is to leadership. Make sure those are up to speed or getting the support they need, yes, but then recognize that these skills are only half, to two thirds, of what create and maintains successful leadership.
Despite the ease of discussing and developing technical acumen and a bank of intellectual knowledge when compared to the art and science of understanding people, many leaders continue to believe leadership fit is about skills and competence. You don’t have to be brilliant to lead. Abundant examples exist to support that statement. In fact, a lack of humility will distance you from the very population you’re leading. You don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the fixture to lead; nor do you have to be the best performer on the team. Leadership is also about how you fit with those you lead, those who lead you, and the desired outcomes that will determine for you, whether or not you succeed. Read that again. Fit is not about just you, just your skills, or just them. It’s about bringing intellectual, technical, plans, preparation, and people skills together in a way that achieves the results, outcomes and goals. In other words, a brilliant mathematician with limited or little people skills may be better suited to lead themselves instead of other people.
And… Act on It
Once you’ve stopped for a moment to examine your path and desired plan, once you’ve ceased forcing things into place, once you’ve identified your ITS and brought each of those elements together…there is a vast difference between identifying a lack of fit and fixing it. The latter takes action and the best leaders act on this difference early. If you’re not happy in leadership or feel like you’re not doing what is needed as a leader for this group of people, chances are you’re smack in the middle of a lack of fit. Take steps now to correct it, change a few things, and align what you’re doing with what you believe you, or they, would be best at.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!