You may have heard of The Peter Principle, which states that, “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” Laurence J. Peter, a Canadian scholar, author and lecturer (1910-1990) wrote a book with the same title expounding on his observations about how organizations work. In a nutshell he says if you are great at your job, you will likely be promoted to a management or leadership position with a different set of skills required and languish there with little chance for real success or job satisfaction.
Before you assume you are doomed to a lifetime of misery drowning in a job you’re not ready for, let’s look at how you can prepare for greater opportunity and success in a leadership role. Competent, respected leaders usually display the following qualities:
Integrity – Inspiring leaders put this quality first, because they know that their employees or volunteers will follow their example. No business, ministry, family or organization will thrive if the leader isn’t trusted and trustworthy. Your integrity will create a culture of honesty, accountability and trust that will become a strong foundation for success.
Judgment – Wise leaders make decisions after they’ve heard all sides, listened for the facts and feelings hiding between the lines and carefully considered the best overall solution that benefits the cause, group or organization he/she has been called upon to lead. Good judgment begins with the intent to listen for understanding.
Competence – Skilled leaders recognize what they need to know – or be able to do – in order to provide the support and supervision their employees and followers need in order to do their jobs well. If you need to take a class, make it a priority. If you would benefit from input from a mentor or coach, seek it proactively. A competent leader is reflected in the growth and success of the people under his/her leadership.
Vision – Great leaders stay focused on the purpose and plan. They take time to look ahead and see the higher aspirations that can be accomplished. A leader with vision doesn’t just make sure people do a job; they encourage a corporate culture of learning, trusting, cooperating and striving for excellence in all areas. They sometimes have to look beyond the small details to see potential and larger goals.
Persistence – Successful leaders understand that sometimes things go wrong. People disappoint. Equipment breaks. The economy falters. But obstacles become opportunities for innovation and a successful leader doesn’t give up when a challenge rises. The quality of Vision is essential in helping a leader persist because it offers a positive goal beyond the current difficulty. A leader who doesn’t give up will have a team that stays on board to help and creatively solves problems when needed.
Humility – Respected leaders don’t demand respect from their employees – they earn it. A leader who is boastful and can’t admit a mistake will soon earn the opposite of respect. But a leader who is honest about not knowing all the answers and being willing to learn will create genuine relationships and earn sincere admiration from people watching their example. Be yourself as you work to be your best and you’ll build bridges instead of walls.
Some people seem to be born as natural leaders, but all of these characteristics can be learned and are attainable if you make the effort. Observe leaders you admire and you will see what they do to inspire and encourage others as they meet their goals. You don’t have to “rise to the level of your incompetence.” Instead, you can become competent in order to rise successfully!
How about you? Have you ever regretted being promoted because you stopped enjoying your work? Or what did you have to learn in order to be successful in a leadership role? We would love to hear from you!
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