Industry Insight: Hard Skills Are Only Half the Price of Entry

Hard Skills Are Only Half the Price of Entry
How Organizations Are Setting Managers Up for Failure

Organizations have been paying only half the price of entry when moving managers through the leadership pipeline. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, only 18% of managers demonstrate an aptitude for effectively managing others. This means a staggering number of companies are functioning far below potential.

If 82% of managers aren't effectively leading their people, consider how many companies aren't effectively operating their businesses. Tom Roth, President and Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide, writes: “When history points to great failures and great successes of companies, it often points to the character of the leader:”

A Leader's Holistic Development
You Get What You Pay For

Typically, promotions into leadership positions come with certain skillset expectations— the price of entry for a particular role. These roles are often separated into three levels: first-level, mid-level, and executive-level leadership. Each level has a uniquely defined set of skills necessary for the leader's optimal performance. Too often, though, the manager is expected to become proficient only at the processes, systems, and resources associated with the new role without any consideration of how the leader is able to connect with and inspire those he or she is leading.

Wilson Learning looks at leadership progression through a more holistic lens, focusing on skills, or Form, as well as character, or Essence. With a widespread “mistrust of leadership” voiced in employee engagement studies, faulty or weak leadership character contributes to the breakdown in leadership effectiveness. Roth explains: “Some see leadership as command and control__ The true purpose of a leader is to engage others in committing their full energy to the creation of value and success.”

A leader with a strong leadership character is a tremendous asset. When an organization makes a commitment to a leader's holistic development, mindful of technical abilities— Form— as well as the cultivation of a broader leadership philosophy and sense of individual purpose— Essence— it builds a framework for sustainable, thriving leadership.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Why Leadership Development Needs to Be Tailored to Each Level

Just as there are different levels of leadership, so must there be different leadership development focuses for each. It's critical to have a specific and well-defined framework that consciously integrates both Form and Essence into a manager's development.

The person moving into the role of C-suite executive has already mastered the leadership survival skills that first-time managers need to adopt as they move from individual contributor to supervisor. Consider the following:

  • First-level leaders must build credibility around leadership ability instead of relying on technical expertise alone.
  • Mid-level leaders must assume greater responsibilities while defining a purpose-driven leadership philosophy.
  • Executive leaders must balance between innovative pathfinder and steadfast guidepost for the organization.

Each of these requires developing both Form and Essence, skill and character, for a very specific set of circumstances. It's the purposeful integration of skills and character at each level of leadership that is the key to becoming an effective and successful manager. Roth concludes: “Ultimately, you will not be judged so much by how well you lead, but by how well you are followed.”

To download the e-book Mastering the Role of Leader: A Definitive Guide for Developing Leaders at AII Levels of Your Organization, visit or call 800.328.7937.