From Specialist to Leader

Being an expert or specialist in a field is naturally desirable for all human beings. In pursuit of this progression, you land a management position, take occupation of that big office with all the bells and whistles, you become the point of convergence. Yet nothing prepares you for when you have to deal with stress, underachievement, unmet deadlines, endless corrective discussions and a feeling of losing control.

You realize that the skill set that sustained you as a technical expert in your field is not necessarily all you require to be an effective leader. As you graduate from a specialist to a generalist role you may find the following helpful and worth considering:

  1. People management

    One key differentiator as a leader is managing people’s expectations, your expectations of them, their performance standards, quality of output and alignment of their individual goals to organizational goals. You also need to be able to hold people to account.

  2. The art of leverage

    Acknowledge the value that different people in your team already possess and use those different expertise and experiences to create better collective value for the organization. At leadership level your objective should be more collaborative than individual achievements.

  3. Effective communication

    As a leader, your primary role is to coordinate tools and resources including human resources to achieve organization goals. Effective communication is a critical skill to develop. Conducting crucial conversations on an ongoing basis is inevitable, the sooner you embrace it the better.

  4. Sound relationships

    Success as a leader is partly determined by mastering quality interaction with people as they, in turn, interact with others to realize the objectives of an organization. Building and maintaining healthy relationships is thus essential.

  5. Strategic thinking

    As a leader your thinking is premised on the big picture, the final product or desired outcome before you consider how different pieces of the puzzle contribute to that bigger picture. Thinking and acting strategically is what differentiates effective leaders from
    technical experts.

While the tips shared above are by no means exhaustive they can certainly go a long way in enhancing chances of success and bringing fulfilment to a technical expert-turned leader.

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