Do strong individual performers make better leaders?

An individual who performs extraordinarily well may not be able to get his team members to do the same

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Let us suppose that a salesperson in a sales team has been consistently delivering well throughout his tenure with a particular company, in terms of smooth operations and hardly any fluctuations in his individual weekly numbers. The company fails to observe the performance of the team, overall, focusing instead on the individual’s contribution only. Being one of the most senior salesmen within the organisation, the higher ups are deliberating whether to promote him to a leadership position or not. The individual does have a proven ability to deliver results, but is he capable of leading from the front? Does a successful individual performer necessarily make a good team leader?

Sailesh Menezes, senior director & head of human resources, India, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, believes that good individual performance may not necessarily translate into good leadership.

“I have seen great individual performers struggling to get their teams in line with what they want to achieve. I think the mistake that the industry often makes is of assuming that a great individual performer automatically becomes a great leader”

Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India

“Leadership is about ensuring collective victory, as a unified team. Individual performance, on the other hand, involves focus on ensuring one’s personal output isn’t compromised. As a team leader, one has to inspire the entire team to perform and give their best. Great individual performers who are unable to inspire performance in their teams cannot make good leaders,” points out Menezes.

“A team is only as strong or as weak as its weakest link. Good leader tend to bring up the performance of their teams along with their own,” he adds.

Menezes also believes that talent pushed too soon towards a leadership position ultimately ends up creating more issues for them rather than giving them an opportunity to grow.

“I have seen great individual performers struggling to get their teams in line with what they want to achieve. I think the mistake that the industry often makes is of assuming that a great individual performer automatically becomes a great leader. This also ends the careers of many individual performers, because they are promoted to a leadership role before they are even ready for it,” he explains.

“Categorisation for senior leadership should be on the basis of how those people were a success in the first place. Were they able to achieve in a personal capacity only or did they involve all the stakeholders to make it a ‘team’ success?”

Viekas K Khoka, head – human resources, Dhanuka Agritech

Viekas K Khoka, head – human resources, Dhanuka Agritech, believes proper analysis is required before promoting a performer to a leadership role. “Categorisation for senior leadership should be on the basis of how those people were a success in the first place. Were they able to achieve in a personal capacity only or did they involve all the stakeholders to make it a ‘team’ success? I think those are the questions that need to be answered before deciding to promote someone to a leadership role.”

Khoka also shares that the ability of a true leader lies in pulling the team members towards the vision or targets, rather than pushing them. This quality often doesn’t come easily to those who are more accustomed to focusing solely on their own performance.

“Rather than looking at the number of people reporting to them or working under them, leaders must try to influence more people around them to work together as a team. It is not about how many people they are able to push towards the target, but how many team members they are able to positively influence, and hence, pull towards the target. That’s what makes great leaders,” explains Khoka.

“It is essential to train individual performers before promoting them to leadership positions, to make them good leaders”

Deepti Mehta, assistant vice president-HR, Luminous Power Technologies

Deepti Mehta, assistant vice president-HR, Luminous Power Technologies, believes that even though individual players may not be the best fits for leadership positions, they can be skilled by the organisation to become more efficient in those positions.

Mehta personally feels that employees who work best when they are not in a team cannot make good leaders. However, proper grooming for the role can ensure that they are able to take the challenges associated with a leadership position head on. “It is essential to train individual performers before promoting them to leadership positions, to make them good leaders. This can be done by giving them an opportunity to learn under the first first-time manager training programme. Here, we try to get them to imbibe all aspects of leadership,” enunciates Mehta.

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