GUEST COLUMN: Spotting Immature Leaders Before Promoting Them
This is an excerpt of a column Logos Advisor Maida K. Zheng published on LinkedIn on May 26, 2021.
This is written for the manager and the employee because both need to be reflective of what immaturity can look like, for different reasons of course.
We’ve all heard it before: “leadership is a privilege.” I 100% agree with that sentiment. Although, all too often we promote folks to leadership positions before they are ready — causing issues that didn’t need to happen. Being good at what you do is not enough to be a good, mature leader.
The number one sign for spotting an immature leader is observing how they treat their colleagues before they are in a formal leadership position.
Do they regularly belittle their colleagues? Are they only a team player when the boss is there to see? How do they think on their feet? Are they able to improvise and adapt to challenging situations? Do they regularly make excuses for their mistakes but freely take credit for things they did well… even if the credit should be shared?
Also, another good indicator is how they treat their current supervisors they may not respect. Do they often behave inappropriately? Do they cause issues and pose questions to simply be disruptive? Are they disrespectful?
The questions can go on and on. They are good questions to consider as those are all good indicators that someone may not be ready for a leadership position now. Maybe after training and growth they can be — but they are not ready now.
An important thing to look for before promoting someone into a leadership position is adaptability and empathy; a good leader needs both. An immature leader may be excellent at what they do but lack the experience to know how to read a room, which makes their leadership unpredictable at best, toxic at worst.
An often overlooked quality of someone who has the potential to lead is vulnerability. If you are a manager, consider really taking a look at your candidate and observing if they are willing to be vulnerable. (Now, I am not talking about oversharing…that’s a different issue all together.) What I am talking about here is, is your candidate willing to admit they need help from their team? Do they know the importance of apologizing? A lack of vulnerability in a leader often also leads to a lack of good decision-making skills.
It’s no secret that leaders need to be able to make decisions, oftentimes under pressure in the heat of a moment. Management should recognize that someone who throws up a wall and refuses to be vulnerable will either make flippant decisions that harm the team or will pass the blame onto others when they made the wrong decision.