Often company management and its HR folks fail to notice how behavioral pattern of employees undergo a change as they move up the ladder.
Jerry (name changed) was an employee of a well-known multinational company. During early phase of his career, he was reasonable, rational and great team player. When he graduated to become supervisor, his approach took a turn. He became hard on his team members and would not listen to their concerns and issues. He showed strong tendency to push his group’s objectives even at cost of cooperation with his peer groups. This was construed by his management and HR folks as great ownership! When one of his peers was promoted as his boss to head the business unit he belonged to, his attitude towards his new boss became belligerent. His perceived ownership started cracking and he would refuse to accept responsibility of shortfall in performance of his group. After few years, he got a chance to head another business unit in his company. His behavioral pattern made a sudden shift. He would vociferously talk about need of synergy among groups, empathy for employees and supervisors to own responsibility for group’s performance, regardless of market conditions or employees’ performance!
Worldwide, Jerrys are in huge majority, who exhibit changing qualities or behavior as they move up the ladder. It is almost universal that with every new job responsibility, come a kick of excitement and perk of new qualities, which are just opportunistic! These exist, as long as position exists. Barring some exceptions, such qualities disappear in personal part of life, because these are not inherent!!
Qualities brought by position are opportunistic!
Look at stark realities in your own organization and you would discover that those people, who never imbibed certain qualities, suddenly pretend to don the same upon taking up a new responsibility. Some common examples are:
- Values and culture
They show sudden paradigm shift in sensitivity towards customers and securing their satisfaction; but asking in the same breath to not to fail in securing higher price from market and get change orders to improve margins!
They start to advocate employees’ motivation and welfare; even though may lack patience to listen and understand employees’ concerns.
- Productivity and cost efficiency
Even though the definitions and actions are ambiguous, new bosses would boast for boosting company’s productivity and drive to lower costs!
- Leadership quotes
It is a fancy for bosses to cite famous leadership quotes and inflict intellectual assault on their audience! They neither care about context nor conviction for what they quote.
- Innovation and unleashing talent
Employees suddenly start to receive discourses and dressing from bosses to innovate and unleash their talents! Obedient employees nod their heads and clap; but never ever able to fathom what and how they need to do it!!
Look at the perfect parallel with students of arts or music. When some of them become celebrities, god knows how they get inspiration from blue to fight for the causes of HIV infected patients, blind children, animals and birds! Yes, it does help them to elevate their images and ratings!!
Can Opportunistic qualities be made Perpetual?
Yes, perks (in terms of emerging qualities) of new position can be made perpetual!
Unfortunately, I have not come across any company across world having a systematic program to cultivate opportunistic qualities of people into perpetual strengths. This is one of the main reasons why good leadership is always scarce. Often, companies would treat opportunistic qualities of individuals as inherent and assign them leadership roles. Such leadership is highly fractured.
Here is what a company or even common professional can do:
- Everyone has traits or inherent qualities, which can be classified into 5 categories, based upon how she/he consistently/repetitively responds to following entities and situations:
- Response about Self
- Response to other known individual
- Response to masses
- Response to conflicts
- Response to opportunities
- Note down his (I would be using “he” now on, without gender bias) traits, when he starts to work with the company by making a table with 5 columns having titles as in point 1. Use maximum of 3 key words/attributes per column e.g. confident, polite, balanced, aggressive etc. Hence, in 15 key words or attributes, you would describe above 5 responses/traits of an individual.
Shortlist those employees, who have minimum of 3 responses on positive side.
- Record responses of shortlisted employees after they receive each promotion for higher function under 5 columns of the said table.
You would discover that some of responses/traits would start to undergo a qualitative change. It is possible that some changes are not in same direction e.g. after 1st promotion, he shows arrogance instead of confidence earlier and after 2nd promotion, he is back as confident or become shy or underdog.
- Before an employee is given key leadership position, evaluate this:
- If an employee shows changes in 3 or more traits, he is not a leadership material.
- No qualitative change in 3 traits would make him average leader.
- No change in any of 5 traits would make him a great leader!
- With above information in hands, it is very much possible to transform opportunistic qualities exhibited by an individual vide step 3 to perpetual status through a good mentor.
This is a solid method of identifying seeds of leadership and cultivating same into a great breed!