I have worked with many STEM professionals, who have either sought to be promoted to a leadership role or have found themselves in one through merit.  They often are looking to be recognised for their expertise and when they find themselves in the new role are shell-shocked that they are no-longer being asked or rated against the complexity or volume of their output, rather on: how they lead their team, interact with stakeholders and drive strategy.

They are then left to find their feet and work out what is expected of them, they hear phrases like “you need to manage up”, “you need to have emotional intelligence” or “you just are not driving the agenda”.  They leave their feedback sessions bewildered and unsure about what is expected of them.  So, they work harder, longer hours, making up for the deficiency of their team, they explain their inability to do some of the client liaison, strategy and leadership because they are too busy.  Thus, they hide in their comfort zone and everyone, including them, loses out.

I believe that this could be managed so much better if people were more overt about what is required and to stop confusing their new leaders by wanting them to keep doing what they are excellent at e.g. being in the detail able to sort things, whilst developing new leadership skills.  Presumably, they have been promoted because it has been recognised that they can step up.  It is important therefore, that someone else is identified to fulfil the tactical details that they used to be involved with.   They can then properly start developing their role as a leader.  And why does this happen? Because this is what happened to the manager when they were promoted into the Leadership role.  So, the problem perpetuates itself (and will continue to do so if we do not do something with this generation of leaders)

What is the answer?  It is time for existing leaders to recognise this issue, and to understand what they are asking their new leaders to do and how it is a contradiction:  Be in the detail whilst also keeping a high-level overview!

The new leader themselves also needs to take responsibility for this themselves.  Why did they want this promotion was it the gravitas, money or to be the best leader they can be, assuming the latter then we have something to work with!

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