September 24, 2023

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Claire has been in her role for 5 years. He is an expert performer who is highly valued by his manager and many others in the organization who rely on his expertise. Nevertheless, Claire is disappointed that she is not being promoted. She wants to step up to the next level and doesn’t understand what she’s missing. She knows her territory. It gives very good results. She feels she “deserves” that promotion. Claire came to me to ask what was missing and whether it was time for her to leave the company that would promote her.

What Claire lacks is an understanding that executing isn’t just about the next step in rank. Instead, upper management is looking for someone who understands their field as well as someone who doesn’t always get bogged down in the details, who can deliver leverage and who can gain the trust of senior stakeholders. . Claire needs a new understanding of her role as a leader.

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death of generalist

The proliferation of high-ranking experts in the corporate landscape is a relatively recent phenomenon, a result of the rise of a knowledge economy, leading companies to increasingly provide technical solutions and advice. As a result, companies no longer want their emerging leaders to be “generalists”. Generalist implies that as you move up, you need to become a jack-of-all-trades, a manager who knows a little bit and a little bit about it. The promise of generalism was that companies would develop cadres of managers with “fungible” skills who could lead whatever and be dropped into any business as needed. The assumption was that the specific context of a business was either easily learned by these generalists or was irrelevant to the task of leading people.

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a new breed of leaders

In a knowledge-driven business today, most employees resent a new leader who knows nothing about their technical specialty. HR executives at many companies will tell you that it is no longer possible to create career paths to prepare generalists for top leadership because many managerial slots are not suitable for people who only bring management skills. Deep technical knowledge is required and given importance. As a result, today’s leaders must learn to lead sometimes as experts and sometimes as non-experts—that is, as a leader who is straddled in the field of knowledge.

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In its ideal form, expert or e-leadership is a powerful combination of thorough knowledge in a given area and a clear concept of how that knowledge can be applied to improve team performance. Teams who come to an e-leader for help solving very deep problems value it, and managers love knowing that e-leaders are well-versed in the details in their field. This knowledge is essential for controlling quality and risk. However, these are not first-time leaders – they are often led by managers of teams.

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However, when e-Leaders develop strong teams with depth, they are called upon to increase their leverage. Problems often emerge because e-leaders haven’t learned to delegate, step away from performance details, and let others make decisions independently. The solution is not about giving up expertise, but rather requires learning across domains without expertise. This solution begs a new question: How much time should the leader spend as a specialist and how much time as a spread leader?

Developing a New Mindset to Step Out of the Comfort Zone

E-leaders are comfortable in the value they bring to the team and organization, their confidence usually strong because they know their stuff so well. Their networks are usually defined by those who tap into their knowledge and experience. And they stick to their knowledge base to avoid most organizational politics, let their work speak for itself, and delve into the details to resolve disagreements.

When e-leaders move into a broader role, they need to acquire core competencies in dozens of areas without becoming experts in every aspect. How to lead requires a new mindset and a different approach to understanding how you are adding value to a growing set of responsibilities on which you have little detailed knowledge.

Contrary to popular belief, deeply technical leaders, whom many call “hi professionals,” can learn to be effective diffuse leaders if they are informed about the nature of transition and supported in shifting their perspective. Is.

What the Best Leaders Bring to the Job

Every leader needs to understand how to add value to a job, how to do the right thing, and how to interact with people. What sets great leaders apart is their mindset about what each of these elements means – in other words, their mental model of what great leaders do.

adding value

Expert leaders add value to the company and team through their knowledge, wisdom and sense of responsibility for the safety of the company. Their work focuses on solving detailed, precise and in-depth problems. Their interactions in the organization are based on the credibility of their expertise and the knowledge they possess. Company superiors, peers, subordinates, and external supervisors expect the e-Leader’s decisions to be within a well-defined scope and based on detail, extensive material knowledge and experience, and strict application of logic. Tangible contributions of an e-leader often include the ability to cut through bureaucracy and get to the heart of the issue solving a customer’s problem, a talent that can be extremely valuable to a company.

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When they move beyond their expertise, which happens as S-Leaders, managers need to understand enough to see where the pieces come from, rather than trying to know everything about technical experts. how they fit together. Value comes from breadth of knowledge not depth and the network an S-Leader can help the team access information, raise their profile and resolve conflicts. As one veteran S-Leader put it: “As I became an extended leader, I retained my understanding of how things work but I lost the need to dive into the day-to-day details of work. ”

(right) getting the job done

Within the Getting-the-Work-Done rubric, there are five elements that characterize e-leaders: controlling from the center, relying on professional skills and contacts, drilling down deep, deep focus and concentration, and making the right decisions. In other words, setting clear, unambiguous goals and focusing on them without worrying about other aspects of the business or spending time with people outside your field.

When leading beyond their expertise, managers tend to lead more by influence than by telling people what to do. Team members need to see the S-leader as an assimilater, synthesizer, and integrator of information. They want to participate in that integration process and see it work. They expect the S-Leader to gain buy-in for the initiative through a process of consultation and discussion, and for decisions to be made at the end of a well-conceived, participatory process.

S-leaders need to find people who can get the job done and then trust them. S-leaders are not generalists – they should know some essential things about the work their team is doing, not all the details. They use their intelligence and networks to verify that their team is on track.

how do you interact

Fundamentally, as an e-leader, you trust yourself or someone like you to do a good job. For e-leaders, conversations often rely on reasoned arguments and facts, quirky personalities are accepted, and people follow you because of your specialized knowledge.

S-leaders must be comfortable working with and leading people who know more than they do and who have a wide range of personalities and styles. His job is enabling the team, not doing the work. As a result, S-leaders must be more adept at influencing others than at reasoning. Their relationships, not the depth of their knowledge, is how they work and achieve goals.

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stepping out of your comfort zone

Now that we’ve looked at both forms of leadership, you can probably see that some managerial positions are strictly one or the other. Your current position is no doubt some sort of a mix, as is any position you may aspire to.

Given the differences between E- and S-leadership, how do you build the nuanced, complex leadership capabilities that are necessary to thrive as an expert in S-leadership?

Here are some important questions to look at:

What is your value as a leader? How much of that leadership value is based on expertise and how much on the abstraction of S-leadership? Should you be trying to change the ratio of the two types in your current situation? If you are currently in an E-Leader position and are hoping to shift the balance to a more S-Leadership, are your team members ready, or could they be, to become experts? If you are looking for a new job that is more heavily S-led, what capabilities do you need to acquire in order to be successful? What changes would you need to make in how you think about your role? Are you ready for the challenges of stepping out of your comfort zone? Who will help you?

Answering these questions will help you think about the next step in your career and help you define where to focus your energy along with the area you most need to grow in. Talk with your mentors. Take advice from people around you. Don’t expect it to figure itself out all by itself.

Written by Dr. Wanda T. Wallace.
have you read?
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Three Reasons Why Many Leaders Are Afraid of the Future by Dr. Oleg Konovalov.
Leaders, Do You Know What’s the GPS to Your Success by Dr. Jefferson Yu-Jen Chen and Anne Duggan.
How can you increase productivity in 2023? Be Less Busy by Brian Wallace.
How Culture Wins by Leo Bottry.

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