Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Leadership or Technical Skills…Make a Choice


An Inbound Sales Lead!

A while back, my phone rang. On the other end was an IT Executive in a company that provides alarm services and remote video surveillance services.  It sounded as if the business was growing despite a significant challenge.  I was initially intrigued.

A Strategic Leader

The request from the IT Executive to me was for me to find a strategic leader for his company. At first, the words strategic and leader got me excited.  That’s precisely the kind of person I love to recruit.

As the conversation progressed, the IT Executive told me that the strategic leader he was seeking would be overseeing an operation where he / she would oversee employees who would be watching multiple camera feeds on multiple monitors on their desktop. 

So far, this conversation was going well and there was nothing about the conversation that I couldn't comprehend.  Then, the IT Executive told me that the strategic leader he wanted would have to possess deep experience with a particular video surveillance software package. 

Past Hires

My gut feeling about this conversation was beginning to change but I hung with it.  I asked for some information on the history of the open position.  The IT Executive explained that they’d hired the wrong person two times in a row.  This would be their third try.

They Couldn't Lead

I probed more deeply and found out that in both cases, they’d hired someone who had the right technical skills but where both incumbents came up short was in the realm of their strategic leadership skills.  They simply didn't have the ability to lead; the IT Executive told me.

The Wind Left My Sail

It was at this point that my interest level hit rock bottom.  I knew how to fix this problem but I was clearly communicating with someone who wanted to make the same mistake for the third time.  In baseball, three strikes equate to an out and the batter gets to take a seat on the bench.

Someone once said that repeating the same behavior over and over but expecting different results was the definition of insanity. Taking on an assignment that was built to fail wasn't and still isn't of any interest to me. 

Technical Subject Matter Expertise Does Not = Leadership

While people who have specific technology subject matter expertise can possess leadership abilities, it is highly unlikely that a search focused on specific technical skills will produce someone who has bot the skills and leadership abilities.

Management Does Not = Leadership....both skills are important

What this IT Executive was really asking me for was a manager who possessed deep experience with a particular technical software package.  What I couldn't get past was this IT Executive’s inability to separate management from leadership.  If he hired a manager in the first place and set expectations for this person to be a great manager with his or her sleeves rolled up, the IT Executive might not have had two failed hires before he called on me.


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