Great leaders are usually moved up the promotion ladder rather quickly. With these promotions come the expectation that the now experienced leader is responsible for choosing their replacement. There’s only one you, and unfortunately, we can’t make copies of ourselves. Therefore we have to work with the options available and make the right choice for the organization. Here are a few tips to ensure you choose the next great leaders for the team.
I’m a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army. In most military services, warrant officers are highly respected due to their ability to strike a balance between technical expertise and leadership. As you can imagine, they make up a tiny population of our military. In the active-duty U.S. Army, we make up less than 3% of the entire service. As a result, we have an unspoken responsibility to mentor, recruit actively, and eventually choose our replacements and progress up the ranks.
The process for applying for selection as a Warrant Officer involves receiving a written recommendation from a senior warrant officer in your respective field. Therefore, placing current warrant officers in the position to choose their replacements. Like military officers, civilian executives have a responsibility to choose their organizations’ next great leaders. Below are a few tips on ensuring you are making the right choice.
Don’t confuse passion with the desire to lead
Passion is a common trait among leaders, and often individuals are drawn to those that can inspire others through their motivation, skill, and desire to get the job done. However, enthusiasm and motivation in a current position won’t always translate into the skills needed to excel as a leader.
Don’t be surprised if some individuals don’t want to be great leaders
I know it may be hard to believe, but everyone doesn’t want to lead. I work in a highly technical field with many “tech guys”. Many of our techies are considered geniuses in their respective fields; it’s often compared to the television show, “The Bang Theory”. A common concern from the “tech guys” is a fear of climbing the corporate ladder, hence moving away from their passion for performing the job’s technical aspects.
Create a culture that values the leader and the led
This issue can often present a challenge for an organizational leader who must learn to build a culture that values and rewards the “tech guys” while balancing the need to grow future leaders. Often, the proper utilization and rewarding of the technical subject matter expert will result in the organization’s betterment and the worker. Conversely by moving the wrong employee to a position of leadership may be a detriment to both parties.
Choose the right leadership style for the job
I am a big believer that great leaders have mastered the art of situational leadership. Therefore, the leader can adjust his or her style to fit the organization’s developmental level and followers he or she will influence. Unfortunately, all leaders cannot adapt their leadership style based on the situation; this is especially true with young leaders who have only mastered one type of leadership style.
Early in my military career, I excelled in positions that required a directive leadership approach, primarily when working with young, inexperienced soldiers that needed task-oriented direction. However, when placed in leadership positions with highly skilled subordinates, I struggled to influence the group. I lacked the experience to adapt my style based on the situation. As an organizational leader, it is critical to understand your subordinate leaders’ strengths and weaknesses; therefore, placing the leader in the position to increase the likelihood of success for the organization and the leader.
Know the difference between your great leaders and your great managers
I previously worked for a U.S. Army Colonel who stated that “we lead people and we manage things.” Despite the simplicity of the statement, in essence, it accurately sums up the difference between managers and leaders. Although experienced leaders understand that both managers and leaders are needed to run an effective, efficient organization, these roles are different. When choosing an organization’s next leader, you must know the difference between the two. Vineet Nayar from The Harvard Business Review lists three differences between managers and leaders and ascertains a difference between leading people vs. managing work.
Ultimately, you want to place leaders in a position to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success while focusing your managers on controlling tasks assigned to groups to accomplish a goal.
Choosing the next great leader is more of an art than a science. Experienced leaders understand the need to weigh various factors when considering the organization’s right fit, the leader, and the team. Hopefully, these tips will ease the process of choosing the next leader for your organization. I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment below.