Many of the clients I work with can be described as accidental leaders.
They know it and have a coach to help them learn what they need to learn. I was married to a teacher and it always struck me as a cruel irony that as her career grew and she became a better and better teacher she moved father and father away from the classroom, the teaching, and the profession she had fallen in love with. Every promotion or rise in status saw her less and less involved with doing what she had initially set out to do. It seems cruel but it is a phenomenon that happens the world over, and particularly in business. Take the engineer who is fascinated by making things that work and work well.
Because he is particularly skilled at making things he might decide to start his own engineering business, and as his business grows he will inevitably be moved from the area that first attracted him to becoming a full time manager and leader rather than a full time engineer. The skills that got the business going will not be the skills that are needed to make sure that the business survives, let alone thrives, and I will guarantee that as the business grows he will spend far more time in the running of the business than in the engineering. He will have had to become a leader, whether he initially wanted to or not.
Now if it were possible for the journey to happen the other way around and he had all of the leadership skills and then somehow needed to transition to be a great engineer I am certain he would have set about planning his training and development to acquire the skills he needed, so why does that so rarely happen on the journey from engineer to leader? This situation isn’t limited to engineers of course.
Lawyers may have set out with a love of the law but often need to transition to being business leaders if they want a successful business; so do accountants, doctors, mechanics, retailers, builders and manufacturers. I wouldn’t even think about building a crane or designing a house because I know I don’t have the skills or the training.
You wouldn’t want too many accidental aircraft engineers or pilots in your life would you? Yet it is astonishing the number of people who think they have all of the skills they need to run a business and sooner or later they and their businesses get stuck.
One of the biggest losers in all of this is the people who work for an accidental leader. He isn’t likely to be a good one. He probably isn’t that great to work for and the jobs he creates are probably not that fulfilling or long lasting. – Ian Kinnery