Oct 2
leader versus manager

Shifting from a guru to a leader

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Q: Let’s say that a senior resource in the company has a track record of outstanding and exceptional technical skills. Everyone comes to him to consult, get advice and even proofread their work. Then the gentlemen gets promoted to CEO. How do you get them off the guru track and into executive leadership mode, without a stick that is?

A: Thanks, this such a great question and a very common situation. John Maxwell does a great job in laying out this issue with a simple Chart – see below.

Law of the lid – manager to leader – executive leadership coaching

What you have explained is an individual who has technical competence, problem-solving ability, drive and motivation – likely they are at a very high level on the X-Axis. As we move into senior roles such as CXX, VP etc. I believe we need to make a mental shift that requires us to see our role very differently. We are no longer the expert (or at least we should not be – that’s why we hire exceptional people).

What created success in my ‘guru’ role will not be success in a CXX role. Marshall Goldsmith, a wonderful mentor of mine, wrote a book that addresses this well from a behavioural perspective, it is called “What got you here won’t get you there.” 

The newly minted CXX will have to shift his mindset, limiting belief to align with the following principles.

  • From knowledge, expertise and execution to insight and vision
  • From being in the know to being influential
  • From being a tactician to being a strategist
  • From being an advisor to being an inspirer

This is not an easy shift for some and uses our EQ muscles more than our IQ. IQ got us here, EQ will help get us there. It is much more of a relationship game at the top – if people don’t trust you, they won’t follow or serve you. If you are unable to balance power with vulnerability people won’t trust or connect with you.

You will have to help the new CXX to emotionally connect with the organizational purpose. This allows them to align their passion with the organizational direction and will inspire personal change and growth which will lead to influence.  

The gap I continue to see in organizations is inadequate succession planning which results in the scenario you have highlighted. We could do a better job of coaching folks for a couple of years before they are placed in the role. To be honest, if we do a better job of this we may find that many brilliant tacticians do not really want to or belong in a CXX chair.

Here is a leadership assessment survey you can share with this individual which may help them think through the greatest impact shift they can undertake to succeed in the senior role.


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