Several years ago, I joined an ERP product company as a test lead after working as an Aeronautical Engineer for nearly ten years—designing embedded avionics systems. Throughout my career as an embedded engineer, I focused on learning, applying, and improving my knowledge of hardware and software—primarily, I worked as an individual contributor. I focused all my attention on my technical skills that will enable me to produce high-quality work. I was unaware of the behavioral adjustments necessary for leadership.
It made me feel anxious and fearful as I walked into this new office with a 'Lead' title none the less I was elated at the same time because of the prestige and reputation involved with this 'Lead' title. However, it did not take much time for me to realize that one's importance rarely corresponds to his real worth; 'prestige' is, in part, a delusion.
As I plunged myself into the new role, I changed my old ways. Earlier I took pride in writing high-quality code, and that was the source of self-esteem for me. Now, it's the team's ability that gives me satisfaction, which led me to let go of my old goals and old habits. I started getting a little bit better every day. The daily real-life experiences—working on new projects and activities, interacting with very different kinds of people, and experimenting with unfamiliar ways of getting things done—helped me transition into my new 'Lead' role.
Transitioning into a leadership role is both challenging and exciting for first-time leaders and seasoned executives. The world is more unstable and uncertain than ever before, which necessitates that the first-time leaders succeed so that the businesses will succeed.
"A 2022 Gallup poll found that only 18% of managers demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others – meaning a shocking 82% of managers aren't very good at leading people."
Bad leadership and leaders are all over the place and cost businesses billions of dollars. Why is bad leadership in the business so ubiquitous? One compelling argument will lead us to believe that 'leadership' is the most elusive and difficult attribute to pinpoint. Why so many intelligent, forward-thinking professionals, who work hard to move up to the corporate ladder, fail as leaders? Can poor leaders get more effective and turn out to be good leaders?
Yes. Anyone—quite possibly everyone can be a more effective leader. It requires constant reflection upon ourselves, systematic acquisition of relevant skills, and good observation of great leaders-and their ways.
As first-time leaders and seasoned executives, we are always obsessed with great leaders and how they achieved their greatness. In my opinion, great leaders are inspirational and, at the same time, achieve significant business success.
We can all be inspirational leaders—For that, we need to be more authentic, passionate, resilient, self-aware, and genuine.
To be a great leader, being 'inspirational' is not sufficient. You must scale a profitable business that makes meaningful contributions to the communities you serve, nurture high quality, balance your employees' lives, and positively impact future generations.
Here is a simple model to help you on your journey—‘bad-to-good-to-great.'
Quadrant #1: Low Inspirational – Low Business Success
You may be stepping up as a leader. You must understand that growing up as a good leader is a process. Start looking at the traits needed to be an inspirational leader and the the hard business skills required to successfully steer your business.
Quadrant #2: High Inspirational – Low Business Success
Well-intentioned leadership is not sufficient to achieve long-lasting positive business success. The leaders and the businesses in this quadrant tend to focus disproportionately on creating and finetuning strategic vision but fail to percolate it down to the teams. The leaders are low on their 'Execution Quotient.' If you have to keep your teams enthusiastic and inspired in an ongoing manner, you must build a profitable and productive business—It is a necessary pre-condition.
Quadrant #3: Low Inspirational – High Business Success
The leaders in this quadrant are more task-oriented and drive their teams towards good business outcomes. They are more opportunistic and use the carrot and stick approach indiscriminately to drive the teams—and in the process create politically vicious organizations. They are short-sighted leaders. These leaders are more focused on financial engineering and not so much passionate about their firm's offerings.
Quadrant #4: High Inspirational – High Business Success
The leaders in this quadrant are 'far-sighted' leaders. They possess an extraordinary ability to envision and articulate a successful future for their people and the firm. They execute their businesses meticulously by leading their teams and create astonishingly impactful outcomes.
Aim to be a great leader. Anyone can be a great leader.