A leadership position does not a 'people-leader' make.


Leadership is complex! 

Sometimes it can be a bit like riding a unicycle across a tightrope whilst juggling with people taking pot-shots at you from below. Other times it can be like being in a Canadian canoe with everyone onboard and the water taking you down to a magical destination. Most of the time it is a mix of the two, all at once, and with every other possibility in there for good measure!

I often see people who are fabulous in their field of study move into leadership positions...then flounder. They are technically and intellectually savvy practitioners, yet when it comes to people-leadership they struggle. Take a moment to consider how long it has taken you to become an expert in your field. Maybe you are an educator, marketer, engineer or chef, how long did it take you to train and become an expert in your field...10-15 years? 

We are then placed in positions of leadership and think we have (or are expected to have) the same level of expertise as we had in our initial field of expertise. It doesn't work like that. We need to learn new skills. Sure, we will be able to call-upon our past experiences, so the learning curve may not be so steep, but we definitely need to dedicate time to learn our new craft.

I see this issue across many sectors; from civil-work through to education. Too often people are in positions of leadership who have limited experience in the complexities of leading people...and in particular leading people through change. In education I see this within the CoL structure. Expert teachers are placed into positions of across or in-school CoL lead-teachers who are charged with working alongside teachers in a range of contexts, supporting them to develop their practice. Being an expert teacher does not mean you are an expert people-leader!  

Similarly in the civil world. We see motorways being created throughout the country. Some of the contractors working in these areas have moved from being one-person contractors, to leading large teams of people. This takes new learning, and can't be left to chance. People's livelihoods and lives at stake.

Sure, some people have a natural tendency towards people-leadership, but even they need to learn about the intricacies of leading, sustaining and embedding change. In my view it is negligence if an employer doesn't support people to learn their new craft; people-leadership. You are potentially placing both the employee and the leader in positions of potential harm. 

So my question to you for this week is...what are you doing to develop the leadership capabilities of leaders within your schools, communities or organisations? Are you going to just dump them in it, or create a professional learning plan with them?

Mary-Anne supports people to become people-leaders. She works across different contexts ranging from the education sector, trades and corporate world. Contact her to find out how she might support your developing leaders.