When I was first promoted to a leadership role, I had no idea what was in store for me. I thought my job was to give instructions and answer questions. Little did I know that there was a lot more required to be a successful leader. It took some time for me to understand what skills were important to be an exceptional leader. I believe many people have this experience; they are promoted to a leadership role without fully understanding the expectations of what it takes to be successful. Can you relate?
Whether you are currently in a leadership role, or you aspire to a leadership position one day, here are four signs that you should not be a leader:
You prefer to work alone. The very essence of leadership is about inspiring others to bring out their best and achieve goals. This requires consistent coaching, supporting and recognizing employees. Exceptional leaders don't see these as duties they somehow have to fit in. They see them as a responsibility to foster the potential in each employee and the team. They realize that spending time with their people is a great investment toward mutual success. It's OK to prefer to work alone, but that probably means you shouldn't be a leader. Cultivating relationships is the foundation of inspiring people to make their best contribution.
You avoid confrontation. Most people don't like confrontation, but leaders need to be willing to put those feelings aside and have the necessary difficult conversations. There is a universal truth in leadership: People will not always meet expectations and things will not always go as planned. As a leader, you will often need to approach uncomfortable situations with your employees, your peers, and even your boss. Exceptional leaders don't avoid these conversations; they see them as a necessary responsibility for working through issues and moving things forward.
You prefer doing technical work. One of the biggest challenges that holds leaders back from being successful is the inability to delegate. Many leaders who were once superstars in a sole contributor role have a hard time not putting their technical expertise to use every day. Yet this can be precisely the reason a leader is not successful. The competencies for a leadership role are very different from a technical role. Leadership is about getting results through people, not by yourself. So if you prefer doing technical work, that's a good sign that you should remain in a technical role where you can shine.
You think the people side of the business is "too soft." Two important elements of successful leadership are getting results and fostering positivity. You cannot have a successful team if you don't have both of these elements. If you think employee engagement is something that is not worth your time and effort, you should not be a leader. Engagement leads to higher productivity, which leads to results. Exceptional leaders spend most of their time coaching, appreciating, supporting and developing their employees. If this "softer" side of the business is not appealing to you, you should not be a leader.
Leadership is not the best career path for everyone. In our organizations, we need to make it OK for people to opt out of being a leader. We shouldn't just want anyone in leadership. We need people in leadership roles who are willing and capable of serving others and focusing a lot of time and effort on developing their people. We need people in leadership roles who understand the importance of delegation, coaching and recognizing employees. And we need to stop promoting the superstars to leadership roles because we think it's the next natural step. It's not the best next step for everyone.
It's OK if you want to spend most of your time working alone and focusing on your technical expertise. And it's a good sign you should not be a leader.
What do you think? Should being promoted to a leader be the next step for an employee who performs exceptionally in a technical role? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.