In the last post, Inspiring Progress From Current Resources to Future Aspirations, the address I had heard was based on the story of a new executive’s struggle after his rise to the top spot with an all too familiar story. He described what many face as they ascend the ranks of an organization: that what they did previously, even very successfully, did little to prepare them for the challenges of their new position. Note, this was not due to a lack of technical knowledge. Leaders who have been very successful in their previous roles clearly possess the full range of skill set that helped fuel that success. The problem is that ascending the ranks requires a different skill set that may, or even likely builds on that previous technical knowledge but no longer engages in that activity as there is simply not enough time at the higher level.
The point was made that many people in business today are thrown into leadership positions with very little training. I’m not sure this is as common as it used to be and have a slightly different take. Consider the context of our present time. There are an estimated excess of 14,000 new business titles are published annually – many of which are available on audio and, or summary form. What are we to make of such a volume of information? Is is possible to actually say something radically and essentially new? At a minimum, we are repeating many topics over and over. Another example is the popularity of leadership and management as a blog influencer categories. There is an astonishing flow of information from these very popular topics as seen here, or the Google Ngram Viewer below charting the last century:
Combine this with seemingly unlimited online educational and certification outlets and it would appear that training opportunities are at an all time high. So with all the availability of preparatory material, what is the problem? What I would say is that many are thrown into leadership, not without an attempt at training (probably just the opposite), but with very little actual preparation. I think all of the above stated options (with the possible exception of extreme excess number of books published) represent wonderful opportunities and a golden age of sorts that we are living in in terms of what we can do with the availability of information. But the training must come alongside actual preparation.
As an anecdote to the current employment market, we frequently read or hear that there are open positions (especially at higher or more technical levels) that cannot be filled. How is this possible? One reason for this is likely due to the reduction of much of the middle in most organizations in the last two decades. Is it any wonder there has been so little preparation in terms of succession planning? This is especially true in leadership. This trend is not only unlikely to change, but will probably continue its current direction for many years to come. So where does this leave someone who is trying to move forward but feels stuck? It leaves them in the same place we were warned of decades ago at the advent of the information worker. The difference is, we are for years now, in full swing of the information-service delivery workplace, but we simply have not adjusted well to a post-industrial job market. The situation is not hopeless, but help at an institutional level is not on the way, and that is a very significant distinction to a job market in decades past. You have to take intentional steps to move forward, if you are going to move forward. I have some ideas, as do many others, but that is for a subsequent post.