HR managers are often faced with the challenge of identifying employees who are suitable for leadership tasks. How do you know in practice whether an employee can and wants to take on a leadership role? What mindset do prospective leaders need? And how does the change of role from expert to leader succeed?
2 MAIN LEADERSHIP STYLES
- Transactional leadership = leading via goals
- Transformational leadership = leading via inspiration/motivation
What is leadership?
There are different understandings of what is meant by leadership. In theory, a distinction is made between transactional and transformational leadership styles. Without discussing these different approaches, the question
“What is leadership?” can essentially be answered as follows:
- Leadership is a process of influence. A leader helps his or her employees to perform and achieve results and to reach goals.
- Leadership is a service. The leader provides services or benefits for his or her team members.
- Leadership is a decision. A Leader should regularly remind himself of this and and consciously make the decision to lead every day. Because leadership has nothing to do with the job title or the position. Rather, leadership shows itself in actions and deeds.
Who is capable to lead?
HR managers should consciously and actively question potential leaders as to why they want to take on a leadership role. If a person seeks a leadership role because they would otherwise be left behind in terms of ﬁnancial or subjectively perceived development opportunities, or because they might be perceived as not wanting to develop, then these are motivations that are less likely to lead to the future leader being serious and committed to the tasks and challenges of leadership. HR managers should therefore first ask to what extent the employee is clear about what it means to lead. Does the person really want to live leadership in this sense or is the leadership position merely the logical next step to advance on the “career ladder”?
CHECKLIST FOR A SUCCESSFUL ROLE CHANGE
- Have staff already dealt with what will change with the new leadership role?
- Do they have a concrete idea of what this means in practice?
- Are employees already living this in the context of his or her expert role?
- Are employees prepared to broaden their focus accordingly?
What changes when switching roles from expert to leader?
In the next step, those responsible for leadership development should be able to assess whether the potential leader is able to transition from the role of expert to the role of leader. This is because this transition is associated with challenges and developmental tasks.
These requirements have been described by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noël in the Leadership Pipeline (Figure 1). For example, the new leader is no longer only responsible for the results of his or her own work, but also for the results of his or her team members. To do this, she must support, accompany and develop them.
It may be necessary to further develop one’s own social and leadership skills. Practice shows that this is a big step for many aspiring leaders. What I was previously recognised and appreciated for, and what I also enjoyed doing, is no longer the focus of my work.
Handing over tasks also means a loss of control to a certain extent, because the members of the team may do the tasks differently than the leader would. If you cannot allow this loss of control, you may develop into a leader who prefers to do all the tasks himself.
If an employee has already dealt with the question of how the focus shifts when moving into the leadership role and already has an idea of what this means in practice, this can be an indicator of a fit as a leader. The potential candidate may already be living this out within her current expert role. HR managers can support this process by offering employees the chance to understand what leadership means in the organisation and to discuss together what opportunities there are for personal development.
In preparation for this article, I conducted a survey among managers and HR professionals via LinkedIn
and asked the following questions:
- What mindset do aspiring leaders need?
- Which qualities are particularly relevant for the special requirements of hybrid leadership under VUCA conditions, i.e. in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (ambiguous) environment?
- By which behaviours do you recognise in practice whether a person can and wants to take on a leadership role?
Mindset for leaders
In addition to entrepreneurial thinking, the desire to take responsibility and make a difference, and openness to new things, according to the answers, a leader should above all be able to keep the big picture in mind and be able to consider complex situations when proposing solutions.
They should enjoy motivating and empowering people without giving up on themselves. Besides developing the individual, it is also about strengthening team spirit and team performance. Appreciation and cooperation at eye level are just as important as perseverance, inner strength, stress resistance and the ability to make decisions.
Last but not least, according to the results of the survey, a leader should be willing to deal with himself and his own leadership style and be aware of his own role model function.
In view of the challenges of recent months, the attributes of optimism and positivity, the ability to create or maintain closeness in times of distance, and media competence have gained in importance.
MINDSET CHECKLIST FOR LEADERS
- Self-reflection: willingness to deal with oneself and one’s own leadership style
- perseverance, inner strength, stress resistance
- optimism and positivity
- being able to listen
- being virtually and actually present
- ability to make decisions, will to make decisions
- going-beyond mindset: looking and reaching (“It works when …”)
- desire to take responsibility and make a difference
- openness to new things, courage to change, curiosity
- identification with the company, entrepreneurial thinking and acting, taking complexity into account when proposing solutions (keeping the whole picture in mind)
- being an enabler: Enjoying empowering people, motivating them without giving up on oneself
- Appreciation and cooperation at eye level
- Allowing different opinions
- Strengthening team spirit
- Being aware of the role model function
- Establishing and maintaining closeness in times of distance
- Being a rock in the surf
- Radiating confidence
Potential analyses as methodological tools
In practice, a potential analysis can be used to find out whether a candidate is suitable for a leadership role. Potential analyses offer a medium- to long-term outlook on an employee’s development opportunities, deployment possibilities and concrete needs. There are various procedures for this. HR managers can, for example, work with biograﬁcal data collection or conduct a development interview with the prospective leader. Self-assessment or an external assessment obtained through peer rating or manager feedback are also meaningful tools. Psychological tests and development centres are often used. Leadership simulations or leadership games are also an interesting way to identify potential leaders. On this basis, potential candidates can better assess whether the step towards leadership is the right path for them.
Effective leadership begins with effective self-leadership. Those who aspire to a leadership role must be prepared to deal with themselves, their own personal development and the true motivations for such a role. In addition to the indispensable leadership skills, potential leaders also need a realistic idea in advance of what leadership means in the respective organisation and what tasks, expectations and requirements are associated with it.
The original german article was written for blog.personal-manager.at by
Executive Coach, Consultant, Trainer & Managing Partner MDI
Anita Berger is an executive coach, consultant and trainer specialising in leadership development and international human resource management. She is a partner of MDI Management Development International. For more than 15 years she has worked in management and leadership positions (among others as HR-
Director at Coca-Cola Hellenic and HR Manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions).