Can a functional specialist become a leader?

Last month I attended a very interesting talk at the CIMA Chilterns Branch about how to use psychometric testing in recruitment assessment centres to identify the candidate with the best suited personality traits for the role. There is a major impact when recruitment goes wrong and a functional specialist is promoted into a general leadership role that does not suit their personality traits. Issues that arise include the leader unable to engage with their staff, not sharing their vision and inability to connect at any meaningful level with their team. However, these are all essential skills if you are to best harness your team to build your business.

So there are definite advantages of using this sort of recruitment assessment to get the best candidate for a role. But what happens to the person who has already taken the leadership role and now finds themselves in a position where their normal way of working does not deliver their usual excellent results? Does this mean that they should be moved out of post and put back into their comfortable niche? Or should their organisation support them in developing their skills to make a successful transition?

Often senior management within organisations are not willing to truly feedback the issues of poor leadership with their newly appointed manager. It can be left to HR to sort out, or it is addressed with vague references in the annual performance review process. I have witnessed situations where a manager is promoted and left to flounder and eventually leaves of their own volition or are assisted out. Forward thinking organisations help their best people to make successful transitions using the help of internal mentors or external coaches.

If a new managers personality traits are inherent (which they are), how can coaching help the manager to better fit the requirements of a general leadership role? Coaching does not work to change any personality traits but does reflect back to the manager the impact of those personality traits on their colleagues around them. Often the manager is truly unaware of impact of how they are and act. All they know is that they are really frustrated that their staff do not support their goals and strategies and that people around them act difficultly. Offering a new perspective to the manager is often all it takes to create a realisation and the impetus for change.

With personal insights come strategies to accommodate or overcome an individual’s natural tendencies. These are created by the manager themselves using their own intellect and resources. It may be a lot of hard work at first, but people are amazingly flexible at adopting new ways of working.

So what does all this mean for you as a Finance Professional working in your organisation? Are there goals you want to achieve, but you are unsure whether you can get them in the way you work now? It’s always worth having a deeper conversation with your line manager. Find a mentor to help you identify what about you that is brilliant, but also, what it is that is holding you back.

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