Leaders Should be Leadership Experts First

Surprisingly, I’ve met many leaders who don’t care much about leadership.  They would rather be an expert in their “primary function” such as marketing, finance, sales, or engineering. Leadership is a distraction to them.

They’re wrong.

If your role is to lead people in a particular functional division, you must be a leader first.  Your passion must be your people, your team. Not the function.

When you become a leader, you must change your focus from functional expertise, to leading others towards that expertise and success.  Leading your flock means more than just flapping your wings stronger, faster, or longer than before.  You must set the direction.

You must lead first.

If you’re a CFO, I believe you must lead the finance people, not be the lead finance person.  If you are the CMO, you must become great at leading marketing people, not being one.

Function follows leadership.

No one wants to follow a great accountant.  They want to follow a great leader.

Never forget that.

Have a great night


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Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

15 comments on “Leaders Should be Leadership Experts First”

  1. I think John Maxwell calls those who are the expert in their primary function “positional leaders.” They have been promoted or given the position as the head of a department, but they’ve never understood what being a leader means because they’ve never been a true leader. The performed well at their job and through hard work and dedication to the company they have moved up in the ranks.

    But the culture in most corporations is scared to bring in a true leader from the outside when they are in need of a leader. So they implement the “Peter Principle” and eventually end up with a mess.

    1. My only question is “Why?”

      What don’t organizations want real leadership? That’s the best way to retain talented folks, set and achieve big goals, and maintain a vision for success.

      Why don’t organizations require leadership from leaders?

      1. If we ever figure that one out, we can probably cure cancer, eliminate the national deficit, and bring about world peace.

        Seriously though, I think a lot of it has to do with the hierarchy within the organization.

        The CEO/President is up in his ivory tower and relies on the VPs to let him know what is going on. The VPs rely on the Dept. Managers and so on.

        The Dept Managers want “their herd” to do well and make the Dept Manager look good to the VP, but they don’t want any ONE person within “the herd” to do TOO well, or the Dept Manager risks being replaced (or at least that is their fear).

        So the members of “the herd” are given duties and responsibilities that only someone with a superhuman work ethic could complete in a 10-hour day… but they are not given the recognition that they crave for their efforts … and they are paid only what it would take to replace them with someone else.

        So in most cases, the ambitious members of the team are treated no better than the slackers and eventually they settle into the rut of mediocrity along with everyone else until they are worn out and spit out at age 65 to try to rely on Social in-Security for their livelihood.

        1. James, that is a very bleak outlook. :-)

          I agree that this is not uncommon in businesses today, but that’s one of the reasons that we must be better.

          We must lead leaders to serve selflessly, think smarter, and see further.

          I’ll keep at it until we get there. It affects too many people.

          1. You are right. It is a bleak outlook, and unfortunately in too many cases it’s an accurate one (unless something changes).

            That outlook (among other things) is what influenced me to start living from the “right-side” of the quadrant.

            [5 points to the first person to explain the reference]

            That outlook (among other things) is what inspires my writing on my blog… to encourage someone who wants to own their own business and take control of their destiny.

  2. Hey Aaron!
    The pic of the geese reminded me of “Lessons From Geese” that I read a long time ago and have used over and over again while teaching children, teens, and adults about simple leadership principles.
    I’m sure you’ve already read it. But it’s fun to revisit.
    I was reminded of my role as a parent/mother when I read this post of yours. When I forget to give my children the vision that answers the why we’re doing such and such, arguing and chaos start to set in, I get frazzled and have a really hard time regrouping. My children will plead, “Mommy! Do something!” They’re looking for leadership. Someone to set them back on track heading towards a common goal. It’s hard, but they’re children. They’re not parents. So I HAVE to step up and in.
    Great thoughts as always!

    1. Betsy, I hadn’t actually seen the “Lessons from Geese” speech/transcription, but I absolutely love it! Thanks for sharing that.

      I know that I sometimes miss my mark as a parent when I focus on flapping my business leader or blogger wings harder, and forget to lead my kids 100% of the time.

      Great reminder!

      Thank you so much for your comments Betsy. You are appreciated.

  3. This is just a great post Aaron. So many leaders do not truly understand what their role should be. I just love the line “leadership is a distraction to them”. Great perspective Thank you!

  4. Excellent point, Aaron! I think people in leadership positions enjoy the intellectual superiority that goes with their positions but tend to see the leadership/HR aspect as babysitting. It’s probably more of a managerial problem than anything. Executives see the best “finance guy” and assume he’ll be the best candidate to lead the finance team. In reality, he might better serve the company by being an analyst in an office far away from people. Leaders, regardless of department, should be chosen on their ability to lead.

  5. The only way to become a “leadership expert” is to lead. You’ll either learn you’re a leader or you’ll realize you’re better off following someone else. Your passion is the function first (how to get there) then the people (how can I get them there with me?).
    Just my two cents…

    1. Hey Dan, I can’t disagree with you that it’s not for everyone.  I just think that once people claim to be leaders or are put in that role, they should make it a priority.

      I’m not sure how important the function is if you’re doing a poor job leading.  In your business, it would be like a great cameraman becoming a producer.  However, if that producer is awful at managing the production, it doesn’t matter how good they are with a camera.
      Right?Leadership is a job by itself.

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