Does a Promotion Create a Leader?

Leader by Default?

As I look around my office, I get a chuckle as I reminisce about the awards from my early “glory days” as an engineer:

  • Top Gun of the year 2001
  • Distinguished Service Award 2003
  • Distinguished Service Award 2004 (last award received)
  • Promoted to Manager 2005

I don’t mention this to highlight my accomplishments, but to contrast my effectiveness as an individual contributor vs. my effectiveness as an early manager.  

I was a good engineer, but in my first few years as a leader, I was far from effective.  OK, that’s an understatement, I was a terrible leader.  

At first, I had no idea what it took to lead. I was arrogant and certainly immature. I even remember saying statements like “I’ve been around leaders my entire life, I know what it takes to be a good leader” or “I understand the technical aspects of our department, how hard can it be to lead it?”  

The Peter Principle 

As I settled into the leadership position, I still thought I had it all figured out. Yes, I filled out performance appraisals, approved time off, hired people into the team, fired people who weren’t performing, but I was still stuck in the role of an individual contributor. I had become a classic victim of the Peter Principle (1). 

I was limiting the productivity of the team to what I could be personally involved in. Sure, I added additional people to the team, but I wasn’t empowering them to produce at their maximum potential.  

Save DIY For Your Home Improvement Projects, Not Leadership Growth 

Eventually, I made some strides in my growth as a leader. I keep striving to reach that level where my leadership efforts produce a multiplying effect.   

I know I’m not there yet, but now I at least have a good understanding that high-performing individual contributors don’t always translate into high-performing leaders without intentional effort.


Are you ready to start the transformation from a high-performing individual contributor to a high-performing leader? Get started here.



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Photo Credit: “Lego Micro Trophy” by dluders

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