Leadership development: Ambition and Aptitude

June 28, 2017 by Wally Bock

We promote far too many people to management positions who don’t want to do the work of leadership and who don’t have any particular aptitude for the work. Ted Bauer nails it in his pungent post: “No, no, no: Don’t put the high performer into management.” Here’s the money quote.

“One of the biggest problems at work is the high performer confusion. Let me explain that out. In a hierarchy, the only way to make more money is to rise up 1-2 (or more) levels. There are a lot of flaws with hierarchy, and this is most assuredly one of them. It typically creates cultures where the people most concerned with money end up becoming managers. But here’s the confusion: they are not managers because they wanted to manage other human beings, they are managers because it was the only way to get a bigger salary. Good managers are often super rare in companies. Why? Start right here with this high performer confusion.”

Leadership development: discovering the right ambition

Andy Grove said that a leader had the right ambition when he or she desired team success more than individual success. Testing can help you uncover people with the right ambition, but mostly you need to put aspiring leaders into leadership positions and observe how they act.

Do they talk more about “I” or “we?” Do they enjoy helping others succeed?

Leadership development: identifying aptitude

The problem here is that many people might enjoy the work, but they don’t know what it really is. Temporary developmental assignments can help here, too. When you debrief a person who’s completed such an assignment, uncover the things that he or she liked and didn’t like. If they like helping the team and team members succeed, you may have a winner.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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