If you don’t feel like a leader, how can you be effective in your leadership role?
Many professionals in leadership roles are promoted or hired into the role based upon their technical expertise and effectiveness in their professional capacity, but many do not have the background or skills– and some do not even have the inclination to lead.
People in all types of role are likely to fall victim to the traditional path of professional success within their organization, which results in the acceptance of a leadership role. The results of my research into physician leadership specifically, have shown the importance of a leadership identity to physicians in leadership roles, and I believe this is something that is the key to effectiveness for everyone in a leadership role. You must embrace your leadership role in order to be effective.
Too many times over the years, I have heard of professionals who came to be in their leadership role out of obligation or because they were the one who wasn’t at the meeting. One physician leader explained that, “Someone had to do it,” and another told me that “It’s not anywhere near a real job.” (Gasp!) Granted, a physician should obviously be concerned with their primary purpose of helping people and saving lives, but there needs to be room for all leaders to see the value of their leadership.
Hopefully, with increasing interest in leadership development and awareness of the importance of leadership, this becomes less frequent. But, at this point the need remains for more awareness on the importance of embracing leadership to be effective— for individuals, as well as the teams and organizations they work within.
So, how does an individual come to embrace his or her role as a leader?
In the case of physician leaders, my research suggests that this comes from individual acceptance of the role (I believe that I am a leader); peer endorsement of the leadership role (the physicians I lead may be peers from a clinical perspective, but I also believe they see me as an organizational leader); and my organization gives me the authority I need to enact my role. I believe these ideas are transferable to other roles and industries.
What can organizations do?
Instead of the path to career success being only through progression into a leadership role, organizations need to recognize that many of their outstanding individual contributors are not well suited for, and in some cases not interested in leading others. These highly valuable members of their team should be offered an attractive career path that allows them to continue to contribute to the overall success of the organization within their area of expertise—not only through leadership roles.
And organizations also should ensure that those individuals who do accept leadership roles are supported by those they serve as a leader, as well as provided the organizational authority and support that they need.
As I wrote about in a previous post, it is difficult enough to focus on the tasks required of you as a leader and move seamlessly to the relationship side of leadership, let alone if you aren’t well suited for or interested in being an organizational leader.
Does your organization have two paths to success? Or do you feel you are locked into accepting leadership roles to move up within the organization?