Recently, a few of us went through a workshop where one of the ‘homework’ was to score oneself, on the following 7 aspects – some of these are attributes that allows one to grow from being (hopefully) good managers to great leaders.

In most enterprises, as one grows in their career, managers need to acquire new capabilities – and quickly. What they have, in terms of skills and capabilities and got her or him to this place, won’t be enough for the next step – as the scope and complexity increases it can leave executives underwhelmed. At the core, new executives need support on these seven dimensions that will help them make this transition.

  • Specialist to generalist – Understand the mental models, tools, and terms used in key business functions and develop templates for evaluating the leaders of those functions.
  • Analyst to Integrator – Integrate the collective knowledge of cross-functional teams and make appropriate trade-offs to solve complex organizational problems.
  • Tactician to Strategist – Shift fluidly between the details and the larger picture, perceive important patterns in complex environments, and anticipate and influence the reactions of key external players.
  • Bricklayer to Architect – Understand how to analyze and design organizational systems so that strategy, structure, operating models, and skill bases fit together effectively and efficiently, and harness this understanding to make needed organizational changes.
  • Problem Solver to Agenda Setter – Define the problems the organization should focus on, and spot issues that don’t fall neatly into any one function but are still important.
  • Warrior to Diplomat – Proactively shape the environment in which the business operates by influencing key external constituencies, including the government, NGOs, the media, and investors.
  • Supporting Cast Member to Lead Role – Exhibit the right behaviors as a role model for the organization and learn to communicate with and inspire large groups of people both directly and, increasingly, indirectly.

I was surprised on how few people talk about this. These come from an awesome HBR article called How Managers become Leaders , which if you haven’t read, I would highly recommend.

So, what can one do? The suggestions outlined are not rocket science, but something to think about. And fundamentally not that much different on how the armed forces trains new officers.

  • Give potential leaders:
    • Experience on cross-functional projects
    • An international assignment
    • Exposure to a broad range of business situations - accelerated growth, sustaining success, realignment, turnaround.
  • When a high potentials’ leadership promise becomes evident give them:
    • A position on a senior management team
    • Experience with external stakeholders
    • An assignment as chief of staff for an experienced enterprise leader
    • An appointment to lead an acquisition integration or a substantial restructuring
  • Just before their first leadership promotion:
    • Send them to an executive program that addresses capabilities like - organizational design, business process improvement, and transition management.
  • When promoted, place new enterprise leaders in business units:
    • That are small, distinct, and thriving
    • And are staffed with an experienced and assertive team that they can learn from.