The Biggest Mistake New Leaders Make

Sarah is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Last week, she flew across the country to spend an hour meeting with eighteen of her high potential leaders.  They were all gathered together at a week-long leadership development program together.

In the world of a CEO like Sarah, that trip represents a significant investment.  Sarah has a ton of other things on her plate.  Yet, she still makes the effort to come to this program and meet these leaders face-to-face.  Her actions demonstrate her commitment to how valuable leadership development is to her.

After sharing some high-level business updates, Sarah went into a freewheeling Q & A session with the participants.   In the Q & A time, Sarah shared this insight:

The biggest mistake that new leaders make is their inability to stop being an individual contributor. 

They are so used to doing things themselves, and getting rewarded for it.  Because this pattern is so ingrained, they keep going back to this same familiar way of working. 

While it may have worked in their past, it completely hinders their ability to lead.

New leaders forget that it isn’t about doing, it’s about leading the doing.  Individual contributors can only do so much.  Great leaders multiply their efforts exponentially.

Sarah then went on to the subject of talent development.

A lot of our leaders complain about the shortage of talent.  That they don’t have enough good people.  My philosophy has always been to give people opportunities, and they will grow.

I hear over and over again that “my people are not quite ready”.  We have to stop that nonsense.  We hire bright people, who do good work.  When will they be ready: 6 months from now?  A year?  No one’s every totally ready.  They grow to the demands they have.

We’ve got to take some smart risks.  Give people the chance to step up.  Give them the opportunity.  80% of the time it works out.   Give them a shot!

Sarah’s comments share a common theme:  Leaders grow by growing the people around them.

How have you broken out of the pattern of staying stuck as an individual contributor?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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