Why doesn’t anyone ever introduce themselves as a leader
Elizabeth and I attended a networking event recently and between us we must have met between 20 or 30 people from a variety of industries and professions including a number of people working in HR, Operations, IT, Sales etc.
Typically at these types of events one of the questions you either ask or get asked is simply ‘so what is it you do?’ On the face of it a great question and definitely a good one to get people talking etc…
However just recently something really odd struck both Elizabeth and I, …to date, we’ve never had anyone answer that question by saying ‘I lead a team of people’ and yet we are pretty positive that for a least a third (probably many more) of the people we’ve met that must be true. More often than not people introduce themselves with their task or subject matter expertise – e.g. ‘I’m an Accountant, I’m a Sales Manager etc…
This got us thinking – why is that?
In reality there could be a whole host of reasons, but we’d hazard to guess the primary reason is the importance and emphasis that both the individual and the organisation place on this element of their role. So for example is an individual first and foremost a leader, or are they regarded as a subject matter expert, whether that be Sales, IT, HR etc… that also just happens to lead a team of people? More often than not it’s the latter, and most people, rather than seeing leadership and management as part of their primary role they view it as an additional responsibility, or an add on.
So, you may ask, is that actually a problem?
In truth it depends…. Does the organisation want a workforce that is engaged, motivated and committed to improving performance and achieving business goals and demonstrates high levels of discretionary effort to make that a reality; or is it happy to have a workforce that is compliant, does the minimum effort required and takes very little responsibility for continuous improvement? Sounds like a stupid question, but you’d be amazed. In our experience if it wants the former then to achieve that successfully leadership can never be viewed as an ‘add-on’ activity. Without great leadership you will never to be able to gain the commitment and buy in of your people.
So why is it seen this way by so many?
Well typically organisations promote people into leadership and management positions because they are good at a certain task or activity, for example they might be the best sales person or the most innovative IT person, so they gain promotion based on this ability, rather than thinking about their ability to motivate and engage other people to do the job, which requires a very different skill set.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to conduct some research into line managers working in organisations –
– How many of them were given the job of looking after a team, simply because they achieved a promotion based on their task expertise?
– How many of them actively wanted to lead a team of people?
– How many of them worked hard on developing the skillset required to do this effectively?
– How many of them have never really been given / learnt the tools to do the job?
– How many of them LOVE the fact that they lead a team of people?
Given our experience and noticing how people introduce themselves we would be willing to wager most of them would answer the first question yes, but very few would be able to answer the last question in the same way…
Thanks for reading