In the EBNonline webinar last week, Gerry Fay, chief global logistics and operations officer at Avnet, clearly demonstrated the need for leadership skills for company growth. With the difficulty companies currently express in finding talent, all of us need to understand why and how we must continue to improve our leadership skills, no matter what our age, rank, or serial number.
actual on-the-job experience can lead to failure.
Here are some numbers Fay shared:
- In 1990, the median age of people in director level positions were age 42, but in 2010, the median age was 34. He also stated that 30 percent to 50 percent of new managers "fail or derail."
What does that mean for us? He explained that leadership comes with experience. Moving into leadership without the maturity and actual on-the-job experience can lead to failure. Companies often promote without adequate training and experience. But let's start with the definition. What is leadership?
I polled about 100 of my closest friends for a one-word definition of leadership. The results were amazing. I received better than 25 percent response within 24 hours of asking. Many did not follow directions with one person sending 10 points to ponder on the topic. Two quoted famous people (Abraham Lincoln and Norman Schwarzkopf). There was no real consensus but the traits that were repeated include confidence, listening, decision making, and compassion.
What you can do
Speak up when you have something to add, not just to hear your voice. Accept your strengths and delegate to others with different strengths. Learn to use the strengths of team members, encouraging ongoing learning.
One remark from a job seeker, I thought particularly poignant, demonstrated action for us, whether we are management or individual contributors:
- Reward the performers,
- Motivate the laggards, and
- Assuage the "prima donnas"
A balance in age in any group can help or hinder talent leadership. The new grads love challenge and flexibility. They won't stay if they aren't happy. That doesn't mean cajoling the younger worker or appeasing the worker who says, "That's the way we've always done it." It means trying to add value with the ideas at hand. It means moving forward, not stagnating. It means being open to new ideas and helping others look at innovation from various aspects to determine merit.
Take a leadership class. Read a good book on leadership. Attend a conference to hear role models and learn new skills. Enroll in a college class or program to update your skills. Discuss your role within your group with your manager. Take time to think about what you contribute to your work group. Moving into leadership starts now. Keeping your career on track requires attention every day.
The more experience you have leading groups, projects, and organizations, the better you know what works and doesn't. When given an opportunity for leadership, accept the challenges and promote others' talent. Leaders must often make tough decisions, like layoffs, closing a department, and terminating someone well liked, but underperforming. As Kermit the Frog said, "It's not easy being green."
Feel free to add your comments. Next week I'll share the 25-plus responses I received from my best friends! You may want to add to their comments then, as well! You'll like my friends!