NextGen Know-How: Why you shouldn’t promote the superstar employee to leadership

A reflection on true leadership, influence and the characteristics of successful leaders

As a young professional just out of college, I decided I wanted to manage people. Leadership seemed so glamorous—having the authority to make decisions, being in charge of a department and making more money.

As I moved up the leadership ranks in my career, however, I realized leadership was very different than my first impression. It wasn’t about prestige, power, money or authority. It was about service, humility, relationships and influence. In fact, being a leader wasn’t as exciting and glamorous as I had expected. It came with a lot of responsibility, a lot of headaches and some choices that weren’t always easy to make. There were many moments of impact and fulfillment, but there were also times of high demands and high stress.

I’ve had the blessing of a few excellent leaders during my career who modeled great leadership. I have also had several bosses who taught me what not to do. These leaders were focused on themselves—how much power and control they had and how to expand their turf. Although working for the latter wasn’t inspiring or easy, I learned from these experiences. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and having the desire to lead and the skills to lead are two different things. Having the desire to be a leader is important, but desire must be met with modern and influential leadership skills.


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