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.
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?