Ric Willmot's Friday Redux No.14: Looking for leadership in all the wrong places

Friday Redux No.14: Looking for leadership in all the wrong places

I had been captain of many of the sporting teams at school and college. I had captained club teams after graduating and been elected to leadership positions in community groups as well. So, later in life when I became a CEO of a HR & Recruitment firm, I thought I knew a great deal about being a leader, leadership traits and how to identify other leaders. After all, hadn’t my reputation proved this?

As I turned around this organisation from being mediocre to something all stakeholders could be proud of, the need to create another tier of leadership underneath became too much to ignore. Even though my belief was in flat structures, collaboration and consensus (I hadn’t yet read Victor Vroom or Phil Yetton), the decision was made.

One of our most successful Business Development people had, what I thought, were the necessary skills, abilities and traits. Plus, she was well-known and respected by the entire company for her results. Over lunch, the two of us discussed this opportunity and established goals, KRAs, KPIs, and a commensurate increase in her remuneration for the additional responsibility. The deal was consummated with a fine Australian red wine.

Transforming an exceptional sales performer into a manager made perfect sense to me. After all, if I could have the rest of the team emulating her success the business would continue on the growth curve we had been able to establish. Plus any problems the team might have, surely this person would have already encountered them and know exactly how to handle the situation, leaving me free to do more strategic work.

Under the new manager sales declined over four months, morale plummeted and we had three resignations. What was her problem? What was she doing and why? I sought counsel of two great minds that I had worked for in the past and soon learned that I needed to work on myself, not on my newly appointed manager. As a CEO and leader, I hadn’t given her any guidance, mentoring or coaching for her to step up to the mark as a manager and leader herself. The fault was all mine. I had let her down.

I was looking at the symptom rather than attempting to uncover the cause. Once I realised this and took the appropriate action to be a good leader myself, things changed for the better and we were back on the way up.

Here are three things you might consider:

  1. Think of a problem in the past that turned out to be a positive. What lessons can you learn from that experience and apply to driving your business today?
  2. Choose a problem that you can turn into a positive if you apply the correct attitude and plan.
  3. What is one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to improve your leadership style?

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