There are still a lot of people out there in our workplaces who believe, that because they are of a certain age, or because they have been there some time, or because they are male, or because they meet their KPIs (even if they stomp on everyone else to do it), that they deserve to be appointed to the next leadership position.They don’t realise that it doesn’t work that way anymore. They need to stand out from the crowd as a leader before they get the title and the role. Leadership today is no longer a title or a role. It is a quality and too many have not caught up with that new reality!
A senior executive I was coaching came to me recently with exactly this issue. There had been some significant changes in his organisation. A number of management positions had disappeared and the rest were all re-advertised. He’d had a major role in the recruitment process and had focused on appointing people who were already demonstrating leadership, acting like what he wanted his leaders to be. This meant, however, that some of those who expected to gain the leadership positions missed out. He now had on his hands a number of people who, not only had disengaged, but were outwardly hostile towards him and the new leaders. What could he do? How did he manage this?
This is a familiar scenario today when organisations have become much flatter and there are not so many leadership and management positions available. While it is very appropriate that those who miss out may decide to seek those leadership positions elsewhere, it is not appropriate that those who say react in a negative and destructive way. The irony is that when they do it is confirmation that the senior executive made the right decision. Their negative and reactive response by disengaging and becoming hostile towards their leaders and colleagues when things don’t go the way they want them to proves that they do not have the skills needed to be leaders today. They needed to act like the leader they wanted to be.
If, instead, they had arranged an appointment with their leader and talked through why they didn’t get the position and what they needed to do to be in line for the next promotion, they would have taken the very first step towards making that happen. They would have demonstrated resilience, that ability to bounce back from adversity. They would have shown they were pro-active, rather than reactive, able to take respond constructively rather than destructively. They would have shown the leader that they are committed to being good at what they do and not too proud to ask for help and assistance. They would have imprinted themselves on the leader’s mind as someone with potential and who needs to be given opportunities to develop it so they would be ready to be appointed the leader in the next round.
If you want to be a leader, you need to act like a leader, even when you haven’t the role or title. This is about managing yourself. It is about self-leadership.