Lack of Leadership
Purpose-based organizations tend to attract and hire very smart and driven people. As the organization grows, these people can believe they can do any role well, even leading people, because they are so passionate about the organization’s purpose. There is a tendency to promote great individual contributors loyal to the cause into leadership and management roles without any assessment or even a discussion to determine whether they will be good people leaders. In most cases, there is not even a day of training that accompanies this significant promotion. These people are tossed into the leadership waters to sink or swim. In many cases, they sink as they fail to engage those around them. Sadly, it is only when the organization starts to face substantial business troubles that these people get called out to take the blame for the business’s challenges. In most cases, it is the business’s fault for placing a person in a role where he can’t win, either because he lacks the natural talent to be a leader or because he simply never received the training or support to do the job effectively.
It’s ironic to promote someone from an individual contributor role—based on his success in that role—to a management or leadership role: The very things that made that person successful as an individual contributor may be the traits that work against her as a manager or leader. A salesperson who is successful selling products most likely enjoys the buzz of closing a deal or getting the personal recognition for achieving her numbers. A leader or manager of salespeople needs to be able to step back and help people achieve the sales and recognition. The very talents a person brought to the table in direct sales need to be mostly suppressed if she is to be an effective leader in this area.
If you have the natural ability, leadership may come easily. If you are best suited as a salesperson, however, you will end up doing the work rather than managing it, frustrating and disengaging the people on your team. Such “leaders” will turn to what they know and do best—selling—not managing or leading. The same applies for an engineer who may love tinkering, building, and creating things. If you move him into a leadership role without understanding whether he has a talent or passion for developing others, he will not engage those working for him and may become frustrated and ultimately fail. Organizations spend a lot of time, money, and resources trying to find the right people to work in their organizations. If you have poor leaders or people who should not be in leadership or management roles, you may lose your pool of talent. People don’t leave organizations—they leave managers, despite their connection or alignment to a purpose.
Another challenge that accompanies a lack of leadership is that hiring managers may think that being purpose driven means hiring people who all think like them. This is a dangerous practice and creates what is known as groupthink: the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. Instead, organizations need to look for diverse thinkers who also align with their purpose.
Excerpted with permission from “Purpose Meets Execution” by Louis Efron (Routledge, 2017).
Louis Efron is the author of “Purpose Meets Execution.” He was head of Global Employee Engagement for Tesla Motors (a role created for him); International VP, HR, at JDA Software; and VP of HR at Stryker, a Fortune 300 medical device company. He has worked globally across diverse industries such as entertainment, medical, software, and automotive/technology. He is known for inspiring audiences to action though meaningful insights that help bring their businesses to the next level.