Watch That Last Step, It Can Be a Doozie


By Chris Gandy

Many people aspire to climb as far as they can up the management tree and often progress quite effortlessly over time from shop floor to functional head. This relative ease can at times set us up to fail as we go for that final leap towards overall organisational leadership.

Within an organisation changes in responsibilities always require changes, sometimes subtle, in our leadership style. But it is that final step where the required adjustments are most pronounced.

Michael Watkins from the IMD Business School recently wrote about some research he has done on the challenges facing people moving into an organisation’s top role for the first time. Essentially, Michael has identified seven major shifts that leaders go through as they transition from functional leadership to company leadership. These moves being from …

  • Specialist to Generalist
  • Analyst to Integrator
  • Tactician to Strategist
  • Bricklayer to Architect
  • Problem-solver to Agenda-setter
  • Warrior to Diplomat
  • Support Cast to Lead Role.

To me there are a few take outs from this research.

Firstly, people aspiring for the “top job” need to honestly ask themselves …. “Do I really want to be a generalist, diplomat, architect etc.? Will I feel comfortable in these roles?”

Secondly, from a recruitment perspective, Boards need to search for people with a clear “enterprise leadership” profile and not take the risk that someone may over time successfully transition from a warrior to a diplomat etc. Sure a person may have been a great functional leader but do they have, or can they quickly develop, the characteristics of a great CEO?

And finally, let’s celebrate and not undervalue the fine traits of functional leaders. After all we need far more good specialists, analysts, tacticians, bricklayers, problem solvers, warriors and support cast members than we do generalists, integrators, strategists, architects, agenda setters, diplomats and leading actors!

About Chris – Chris Gandy is the founder and a Director of Cause & Effective. They are on a mission to encourage all not for profit Boards to question whether they should adopt a Leadership Transition Program when their CEO decides to move on 

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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