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As companies embrace a lean-agile mindset, the demand for effective leadership has never been greater. However, in my practice, I frequently encounter examples of one of the Leadership Dilemmas where in an attempt to satisfy such demand, organizations often recognize and promote talented individuals who possess a set of the most valuable skills for leadership or managerial positions based on their track record of delivering outcomes and contributing to the greater good.

However, this well-intentioned approach can sometimes overlook the fact that leadership requires a distinct mindset and a set of skills that are different from the ones required to create value either as an individual contributor or a team player. As Agilists, we often find ourselves training, coaching, and even mentoring organizational leaders. However, let’s also look at what systematic approaches organizations could take to ensure the success of both the leaders and the teams.

Promoting talented individual contributors without providing them with adequate leadership training can lead to a variety of challenges. These new leaders most frequently struggle with delegation of tasks and decision power, team dynamics, empowerment, motivation, conflict resolution, strategic thinking, and effective communication – all essential for a successful leader. Moreover, the transition from being a solo contributor to a leader often necessitates a shift in mindset from task execution to people development and strategic decision-making.

To assist in the internal development of leadership capabilities, organizations need to adopt a proactive and holistic approach. Here are some great industry examples to be considered:

Google – Structured Leadership Development Programs:

Many companies choose to implement tailored leadership development programs that focus on equipping newly promoted leaders with the necessary skills. These programs cover a range of topics, including communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, delegation, and team empowerment.

For example, Google offers a comprehensive leadership development program called the “Google Leadership Academy.” It includes workshops, coaching sessions, and simulations focused on communication, team dynamics, and strategic thinking. Internal research has shown that most managers find it difficult to transition to a managerial role, give effective performance feedback, and avoid spending too much time discussing technical details.

This program equips future leaders to:

  • Lead with purpose, focusing on the triple bottom line
  • Build a deep understanding of leadership through values and behaviors
  • Lead with resilience and foster a working culture where everyone can thrive
  • Establish inclusive teams that work in harmony
  • Lead and win pitches
  • Create networks and connections that count.

The implementation of such a training program allowed Google to address these issues, shift the focus to internal hiring, improve corporate culture, and increase diversity and employee satisfaction rates.

General Electric (GE) – Mentorship and Coaching:

GE has a long-standing tradition of nurturing leaders through mentorship. The company pairs newly promoted leaders with experienced executives who serve as mentors. These mentors provide guidance, share experiences, and offer insights to help the new leaders navigate their roles effectively. This mentorship approach has contributed to the development of strong leadership pipelines within GE.

Microsoft – 360-Degree Feedback:

Microsoft uses a comprehensive 360-degree feedback process for its leaders. Managers receive feedback from their team members, peers, and supervisors, which helps them understand their strengths and areas for improvement. This approach has led to increased self-awareness among leaders and improved leadership behaviors, resulting in better team performance and innovation.

Amazon – Leadership Workshops and Seminars:

Amazon hosts regular leadership development workshops and seminars for its managers. These events feature guest speakers, case studies, and interactive sessions to enhance leadership skills. Through these workshops, Amazon’s leaders have gained insights into effective decision-making, customer-centricity, and innovation, contributing to the company’s customer-focused culture.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) – On-the-Job Learning:

P&G offers a unique “stretch assignment” approach to leadership development. When promoting employees to leadership roles, P&G assigns them to challenging cross-functional projects that require collaboration with different teams and the demonstration of leadership qualities. This practical experience allows leaders to develop their skills while contributing to the company’s strategic goals.

Netflix – Creating a Learning Culture:

Netflix is known for its strong culture of learning and development. The company provides a generous learning budget to employees, including leaders, allowing them to attend conferences, workshops, and training programs of their choice. This approach reinforces the company’s commitment to continuous improvement and empowers leaders to stay up-to-date with the latest leadership trends.

Promoting talented individuals to leadership positions is a positive step, but it must be accompanied by a robust and comprehensive approach to leadership development. By implementing structured programs, mentorship, continuous feedback, and a culture of learning, organizations can empower their new leaders to excel in their roles.