How do you give someone leadership skills?

How do you give someone leadership skills?

You might be surprised how many sectors have challenges when it comes to leadership skills.

Most people think they left education behind when they joined the workplace. But this management issue is clearly seen in the education system.

If you’re knowledgeable in economics or geography and love children then you’ll make a brilliant teacher.

In the first few years of your career you get to learn about something you’re passionate about and pass that enthusiasm onto others.

It’s similar in business isn’t it? Your first jobs in say, supply chain or finance see you learn more and – over time – share that expertise with other new starters.

Doing it right versus doing the right thing

All those years of experience help you quickly assess problems and figure out how to “do it right”.

The leadership problem comes when you reach a level where doing it “right” isn’t enough.

When you sit on a leadership team it’s not enough to tell people about economics or supply chain.

You’re leaving a place where subject matter expertise or domain knowledge wins. And moving to a place where more abstract concepts will determine your success or failure.

You need to find common ground on topics that affect your organisation but about which you might know nothing.

This requires a whole different set of skills, behaviours and attitudes. And sadly, many organisations don’t give you support to make that transition.

What’s the difference between leadership skills and management skills?

This is a topic we discussed in a blog post last year.

To summarise:

  • Leaders typically set vision for an organisation whereas managers implement the vision. As a leader you’re part of this bigger conversation. A department head is likely to be working out how to be part of the vision without creating anarchy in their team!
  • Leadership skills usually involve explaining Why, creating values and purpose. Whereas management skills usually involve explaining How this works and What it means to their teams
  • Time horizons for these roles can be very different. Leadership can be setting goals for years ahead, where managers are often working to year 1 budgets

Some rare people have leadership skills from a young age and these people stand out amongst their peers. But for most, leadership is developed. It’s often the result of a lifetime of dedication and reflection!

The good thing is that leadership skills and management skills are complementary. Nothing prevents a great manager thinking differently, working on leadership capability and becoming a successful leader.

The biggest obstacle is the discomfort caused by stepping back from your expertise and enjoying discussions that are more ambiguous and with more unknowns.

The importance of leadership skills in times of change

It’s long been said that the only constant is change itself.

The last few years have seen accelerating change with pandemics, economic crashes and global crises appearing with monotonous regularity.

Yet the longer this goes on the less it feels like we’ll ever return to “normal”. The new normal is of rapid change and organisations are adapting their processes to be agile and adaptive.

In this world, leadership skills become more important than ever.

The world’s knowledge base keeps growing and it’s increasingly difficult to remain as a subject matter expert.

It’s likely that experts are prized less for their knowledge and more for their ability to apply their insight to unfolding events. Managing the right things trumps actually being right.

How to build leadership skills in your organisation

Organisation heads can really help this transition by giving individuals the skills to transition from management to leadership.

Larger organisations might have a leadership programme designed to lift managers with potential over this hump.

Even if you have to outsource this, it can be a great way of giving these people the rounded range of abilities they’ll need to operate at leadership level.

Other routes include giving people 121 coaching or providing a mentor – provided the mentor is carefully chosen and has the patience and skills to be relevant.

You might also choose an exercise that gives your high-potential managers an insight into their impact on others.

This could be bespoke 360 degree feedback or a simpler leadership profile tool. We use Emergenetics+ for this, but there are many other options on the market.

Great managers don’t always make good leaders

The crucial thing is to recognise that great managers don’t necessarily make successful leaders.

You’re talking about people at senior level in your organisation and investing in support to get them through this transition will pay back many time over.

The cost of waiting around while they figure it out for themselves can be immense. And the impact of that usually falls on the CEO or Head’s shoulders.

We love helping people transition from management to leadership. If you’re facing this challenge at the moment – whether you’re a school or a business – then drop us a message to see how we can help.