The leader experience and derailers


When a leader’s experience is on an upward trajectory, working through the leadership pipeline, it can be tempting to become blase about that progress.  So often though, leaders derail.  The Center for Creative Leadership has studied what derails leaders and found five derailers get in the way of their continued success.  These derailers are all things that the leader’s boss has control over, so they can easily be avoided.

If you are a leader of other leaders and high potentials, take note!  Avoid these derailers.

leader learningDON’T move high perfomers through the ranks too quickly.  They will miss out on a huge amount of learning. Ideally, people should be in a role for 3 years in order to learn from the consequences of their decisions, and to build relationships that will serve them well in the future.  Plus, if you move them fast all the time, they will always be looking for the next step up and will never be satisfied.

DON’T take them with you to your next department.  They become too dependent on the power that you hold, and don’t learn to find their own power and influence.  They need to learn and grow with other bosses, so that they are not phased when you leave them.

DON’T tolerate bad behaviour.  They need to hear the constructive feedback as well as the positives.  Often high performers are good at managing upwards but not to good at managing their people – you need to help them to learn this skill by giving them good quality feedback.

DON’T test them without giving them support.  Yes they need stretch assignments that they can learn and grown from, but make sure they treat the assignments as growth opportunities, rather than tests to prove themselves.  And be sure to offer them coaching and mentoring to support them in these challenges, rather than leaving them to sink or swim which is hugely stressful.  They need a balance of challenge AND support.

DON’T keep your talent to yourself.  They’ll get a very narrow view of the organisation and its workings, rather than broadening their understanding and building a more diverse set of relationships.  They may also get bored and decide to leave the company altogether, if you refuse to release them to other parts of the business. Treat them as an organisational resource rather than your resource.

Get the message?  It’s all about learning and growth for the long-term and for the broad-view.  I suggest you manage their expectations well and share this research about derailers with them as the background to your decisions regarding their progression and development  Allow them to gather learning and to grow over the long-term. They’ll thank you later, when they feel just at their edge but not out of their depth.  Their leader experience will have been well paced and well matched to their capacity.  They will have gathered the skills, tools, knowledge and relationships that will enable them to be at their best.

Avoid derailers.