After working as leadership and executive coaches for over a decade, we realised that the distinction between leadership and management skills is counterproductive. Both are required to make a leader successful in the long term. At the same time most organisations still hire and promote managers primarily on technical skills. For a complete and balanced assessment all three dimensions need to be considered, we call this the well-rounded leader model.
Our well-rounded leader model assumes that all leadership development beyond innate abilities starts with self-awareness. The demands on today’s business leaders are very high and few are prepared for the level of behavioural flexibility required to be effective in a senior management role. This is especially true around the expectations that staff have of the leader’s ability to lead people and themselves. We use this model in our Executive Coaching and Executive Team Coaching.
The Evolution of Skills
In each of the 3 areas well-rounded leaders need to evolve their level of capability as they progress in their career.
- Technical skills need to evolve into broader commercial skills, culminating in an intuitive grasp of the industry and trends in customer behaviour.
- Basic business skills need to evolve into the full set of management skills, including the ability to create and maintain systems, structures and processes that are dynamically adapted to an ever-changing environment.
- Finally from basic interpersonal skills the journey leads to developing emotional intelligence, flexibility in leadership styles and the ability to collaborate with and influence different people.
Evolution of Technical Skills
Our technical skills usually form the basis of our career. Most of us start out becoming experts in a particular field. As we strive to advance in the management hierarchy, we need to develop breadth, not depth, for role effectiveness. This means going from a narrow focus on an area of expertise to a whole of business approach. This is both a difficult and non-reversible transition. We have to become (consciously) incompetent again to advance.
By developing a commercial mindset we lay the foundation for becoming intuitive about where our industry and the market are going. We learn to present ideas in the form of business cases and start to take the needs of the whole business or value chain into account when thinking about decisions or changes we want to make. The stages of this evolution can be measured using the Harthill Leadership Development Profile.
Evolution of Management Skills
In the area of business and management skills in the first instance we all have to learn to manage ourselves. This includes learning time management, prioritising, organising and getting tasks done. With the transition to management we gain decision making authority and are expected to learn how to achieve goals through others. In order to make others successful on our behalf, we need to create and manage the systems and processes that make the team and later the whole organisation successful. This requires developing rigour and self-discipline.
Only after having learned to be rigorous can we progress to becoming truly adaptable; and seeing and dealing with complexity. Based on our experiences in being rigorous and learning from mistakes our decision making becomes more fluid and less reliant on procedures and guidelines. We also learn how to make systemic fixes, not just fixing recurring issues in the moment.
Evolution of People Skills
Finally, we can’t become effective as a leader without developing our people skills. The first step is progressing from social relationships to professional relationships. This means developing a ‘professional persona’ and dropping behaviours considered inappropriate in the workplace, which requires self-awareness.
Transitioning into a leadership roles starts with empathy and taking a genuine interest in other people. We will have to learn to set aside our natural behavioural style when collaborating with people who are very different from us. To do this we need to develop other-awareness and be able to self-regulate. Both are very difficult and time-consuming to learn, which explains why only such a small number of leaders excel at them. On the basis of self-awareness, other-awareness and self-regulation of our emotional state we can then learn how to influence anybody, not just the people who (are) like us. These transitions mirror the 5 stages of emotional intelligence development.