The General Manager and his dilemma
We were assisting the general manager of a global auto-parts manufacturer who was having a hard time being “heard” by the head office. His ideas were revolutionary, but he had a history of being misunderstood because he was perceived as someone who tried too hard. This perception of his character was now so deeply rooted in people’s mindsets that he was continually dismissed in meetings when he would try and share his ideas.
The same general manager was eventually invited to the head office and became a consultant to various plant locations interested in implementing his ideas. How was such a dramatic transformation possible? By understanding the core elements of what constitutes High Performance Leadership at different stages of our careers. In the three-step model we present here, we reflect on the fact that high performance leaders must progress in their mindset as they progress up the corporate ladder in order to succeed. This is step 1:
Knowledge – The Key to becoming Supervisor
At this initial level of the progression up the corporate ladder, we are interested in the world of day-to-day living and concrete issues where knowledge and practical skills help us to live successfully. What you know, the courses you have taken, the books you have read, the apprenticeships taken, certifications received, and degrees you have attained are all important in defining how you lead. This level includes the information and guidance your family passed on to you and is also the collective information we naturally gather as a society.
We have been in the age of reason for over 500 years (this includes the industrial and technological ages). Our society is driven by knowledge and rational thought. It is not surprising that from a leadership perspective knowledge is deemed to be critical. Knowledge of a job, of people, markets, finance, sales, and products are a must, and very often progress through the company is based on one’s ability to translate knowledge into performance.
Knowledge in partnership with performance is critical to supervisors and team leaders, who not only need it in order to be respected by others, but also to achieve the goals of the organisation. Knowledge of the job, knowledge of people, knowledge of processes as well as goals of the team or department is important at this level.
In family companies we see that children sometimes get into leadership roles solely due to their family connection with little or no knowledge. So it may be worthwhile to have the child leave the business for a few years and then come back armed with the right kind of knowledge. The variety of experience when brought back into the family fold can add value and new energy to the company.
Ultimately, if you want to grow and rise up through the ranks, it is not what you know that will get you there. It is what you need to know and don’t yet know that is critical: Knowledge about yourself, others, and the company. You can obtain knowledge by observing, having curiosity, asking questions and being honest about yourself and your limitations. The level of knowledge is about discovery, observation, and seeking the truth.