Do you believe Gallup?

Graphic representation of one in 10, two from 9

Gallup says one in ten have talent; two more might make it

A few months ago, Gallup came out with a rather stern report called “State of the American Manager: analytics and advice for leaders.” (You can download a copy here.)

In it, they basically claim that yes, indeed, the old saying “Leaders are born, not made” is true.

I quote:

Gallup’s research shows that just one in 10 have the natural, God-given talent to manage a team of people.

They go on to say that two out of the remaining nine individuals can, with training, support, and effort, “perform at a high level.”

I’m sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard hesitating to type the words, because … I disagree.

I won’t argue for a moment that there are a lot of bad managers and leaders out there. Just look at another Gallup statistic: at least 50 percent of all employees will quit because of a bad manager at some point in their career. And another: 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is directly related to the manager.

And I also won’t argue that individuals are all-too-often promoted into leadership positions when they don’t really want to be there. As I said in a recent blog post (“Why be a leader?“), if you don’t enjoy leadership, don’t do it: you’ll be miserable, your team will be miserable, and your management will probably be miserable as well.

But – and here’s where Gallup and I diverge – if someone truly wants to be a leader, and they get the training and support they need, and they really work at it (leadership is not easy), there’s no reason why they can’t learn and, yes, become a good manager and leader.

Leadership involves skills and knowledge that individual contributors aren’t taught: effective communication practices, strategic thinking, coaching and mentoring, and more.

The individual team member is expected to perform the tasks and projects they’re given; the leader is expected to manage the people doing the tasks. It’s a drastic and disorienting shift from doing the tasks to managing the people, from black-and-white answers to fuzzy, indeterminate subjectivity.

Add in strategy (yikes. what’s that?!) and the challenges of delegation, feedback, development, conflict, and the endless gray-area nature of leadership, and it’s small wonder 60 percent of new leaders fail in their first 12 months.

First-line managers and leaders have a direct impact on the vast majority of any organization’s individual contributors. When they’re not given the training and support they need, how can they possibly be expected to do a good job?

The average corporate environment can be brutal for everyone. Why are we doing such a lousy job of making it better?

gljudson Management & Leadership