I have spent a good deal of my professional career building leadership programs across various levels. And, I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad leaders come through those programs. I have watched as people successfully transitioned to the next level and beyond and sadly I have seen people flame out and move on. What I have noticed for most that leaders that did fail is that they were not ready psychologically to lead. It was not that they lacked the mental capacity or the talent; it was instead that psychologically they weren’t willing to make the sacrifices needed for leadership.
They were too hung up on how they used to work and were not prepared to give that up and shift their beliefs, their time and their focus. In the end, it came back to bite them. Each person was considered a superstar; they were labeled as high potential before entering the programs. Each one was a good worker; they were smart and fully capable of making the successful transition. But, for each one, there was some psychological impediment that prevented them from making the right concessions.
Some were making the transition into the first level manager role and they could not get themselves to delegate to their employees. They still wanted to be the stars, so they would swoop in to “save the day” when something went wrong, but in reality they only alienated their people.
Others were making the move into a general manager role. They were the true definition of superstars. One in particular had moved his way quickly through the organization, was assigned to complex initiatives throughout his career and seemed to be making all of the right connections. But when it came time to manage across functions, he could not let go of his marketing roots. The people in operations and finance found it hard working for him. He was not able to build the culture that would support cross-functional cooperation. In the end, they all bickered, ugly office politics played out and he went on his way.
My point is that it is tough being a leader in an organization. It takes a great deal of effort to move up in an organization. Where most people fail is not on the talent side, people have the skills, and if there is a gap it is usually pretty easy to get them up to speed. The challenge is getting them to think differently. It is a really difficult process, but it is worth committing time to, because being a leader is psychologically taxing.