No matter what field or industry you work in, we’ve all had the experience of working for someone who was clearly not fit for the leadership role. In some cases, this was manifested in their inability to make key decisions and in the worst-case scenarios, it was like working with the boss from hell. Under these situations, it’s typical to wonder why someone who can’t effectively lead others would be given such a position. Now, thanks to two recent studies, some light has been cast on why these situations are more the rule than the exception.
In a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder among over 2 000 US employers and almost 4 000 US employees, it was revealed that 58% of managers hadn’t received any form of management training. This finding most likely explains why 26% of these same managers admitted that they weren’t ready to become a leader when they took on these management roles.
Looking at the relationship between these managers and their employees, the survey authors found that managers cited motivating their employees and managing interpersonal conflicts between co-workers as the top challenges that they have to face as leaders in their organization.
As for the employees surveyed for this study, some of the top concerns they had about their manager were a lack of regular feedback, not listening to the concerns of the employees, and a failure to follow through on what their manager said they would do.
In another study, Bradford Thomas and Scott Erker from Development Dimensions International (DDI) conducted a survey of 1 130 supervisors and first-level managers to understand how they’re overcoming the challenges they face as leaders, and what obstacles might be preventing them from succeeding in these roles.
Like the CareerBuilder study, Thomas and Ecker also found that the majority of first-time leaders had no prior management training or support – 57% of managers surveyed said they had to learn their leadership skills through the process of trial and error. This fact no doubt explains why 44% of new managers said that they didn’t know what it takes to succeed in a leadership role.
Additionally, this lack of support and guidance from senior management also has a negative impact on morale for managers who have to learn the ropes on their own. In fact, the number of managers who lost interest in being a leader was more than double among those who learned through trial and error (20%) as compared to those who had the full support of their organization’s management (9%).
Perhaps the most alarming finding, though, revolves around the reasons why employees chose to accept taking on a leadership role in their organization.
When asked why they accepted the promotion, half of those surveyed said they became managers for “greater compensation”, followed by another 39% who said they accepted the role in order to broaden their skills or seek some personal improvement. Only 23% of those surveyed said they took a management role out of a desire to “lead others”, a mere 2 percentage points ahead of those who said that “power and influence” was their reason for becoming a manager.
Consistent with other studies which have shown that money is a poor motivator over the long-term, those who accepted a managerial role for financial compensation were “57% more likely to regret the promotion than those who wanted to make a greater contribution” to their organization.
After reading the results of these two studies on how people end up in management positions, it should come as no surprise that many of us can tell a story or two about working with someone who clearly lacked the ability or skills to serve in a leadership capacity.
Fortunately, these findings are not so much a doom-and-gloom scenario for organizations as it is a wake-up call for both upper management and their employees to gain a better understanding about what’s involved in serving as a leader in today’s workplace.
While I’ve written before about how organizations can help develop future leaders within their workforce, I’d like to share these additional points on developing leadership potentials within your team which takes into consideration the findings of these two studies:
1. Promote leadership as a service role, not as a job perk or sign of prestige
If your organization is to remain competitive and thrive in today’s global marketplace, it’s critical that those you employ to oversee the efforts of your workforce understand that leadership is not about personal gains. Rather, it’s about empowering those you serve in order to ensure that everyone benefits from the shared effort.
As I’ve written about before, in today’s work environment it’s not enough for leaders to tell their team how they can accomplish a goal; they also need to demonstrate why that accomplishment matters.
2. Give clear expectations of what’s required in a leadership role
Given how the majority of new managers accept their promotions mainly for personal gains, it’s important that upper management clarify what their expectations are for employees who take on these roles within their organization.
By providing greater clarity in what will be required in these roles, employees will be more likely to view these leadership positions in terms of how it will serve their professional goals, instead of simply considering it as a means of climbing up the organizational ladder.
3. Provide coaching/mentoring to help employees transition into management roles
Considering that more than half of new managers who had no management training ended up regretting their decision to accept the promotion, it’s in the best interests of your organization to ensure that future leaders are adequately prepared for the challenges they’ll face in their new role.
4. Make efforts to ensure those you promote are effective communicators
Looking at the results of the CareerBuilder study, most of the issues cited by both managers and their direct reports revolved around failures in communication between the two parties. These findings serve to reinforce the reality that being a successful leader has less to do with one’s technical proficiency as it does with their ability to effectively communicate to their team regardless of circumstance.
There’s no question that being tapped by upper management to take on a new role as a manager in your organization is a big accomplishment. By taking appropriate measures to properly select leadership potentials, as well as providing them with ongoing support through their transition into this new role, organizations can ensure these promotions reap the benefits and future successes they’re hoping to achieve through these efforts.