Finding Leaders instead of Promoting Managers

How does your company decide who is going to be promoted to a ‘Management’ role?  Do they pick the people that are really good at ‘doing the work’ and then send them on a Management Training course?  Does that work?  Isn’t this what was described in “The Peter Principle”, back in 1969 by  Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull?  That was meant to be humorous, not advice on how to run your business!

So, what can you do instead?  I’d start by identifying the natural leaders in your business.  Observe the people that work for you; who are the networkers, who do people go to when they have a problem to solve?  Those individuals might be a starting point for identifying the potential leaders.

 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

If you recall, I explicitly separate leadership and management.  Your business still needs managers, to manage processes, projects, budgets etc., but you need leaders to lead the people.  If you put ‘managers’ in positions of leadership, then they may well treat your people as if they were simply entities such as projects or products.

Once you have identified the natural leaders, talk to them, coach them, identify their strengths and weaknesses and put them into positions where they can use their strengths.  Did you think that I was going to suggest that you work on improving their areas of weakness?  That might be something that you would consider, but think carefully:  if the weakness is likely to result in them not being good leaders, then they’re probably not the right person.

I’d recommend one of my favourite books on this subject: “First break all the rules”, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.  What this book explains, is why we should look to use the strengths of each person in our companies to best effect.  It is important that both the individuals and their managers to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and to be honest enough to own up to their weaknesses.

If you’re looking to improve the engagement of your employees, talk to them about their strengths and weaknesses.  What will you achieve by doing this?  By using each individual and their strengths, you can expect to see more engagement resulting from each person being allowed to do what they’re good at, and enjoy doing.  Is there a downside?  Yes, but only if you have a key objective to meet which isn’t a strength of any one individual in your team.  But that aside, you’ve already increased engagement by focussing on their strengths!

What are my weaknesses?  I suppose that I could share one with you:  I get easily distracted when I’m trying to do something that doesn’t really interest me.  I’m writing this blog right now, rather than doing what I really should be doing!