Bud was one of the most brilliant people in his organization. Only in his mid-thirties, Bud amazed his senior managers with his ability to grasp problems and develop innovative and effective solutions to those problems. He was highly sought after as a "go-to" guy and would consistently come up with creative approaches. His management decided to give him a thorny project with a team of over 100 professionals. "This is my chance to really prove I can deliver", Bud thought as he willingly accepted the project.
Bud wasted no time in coming up with some great solutions which his management thought were brilliant. Expectations were sky-high and Bud was on a project high. Then the problems started.
Though Bud did a great job of defining solutions, he had extreme difficulty articulating the work required to get from the current state to the desired solution. He frequently lost patience with project team members when they brought up problems or issues and accused them of "stonewalling" the project. Project risks were ignored and dismissed as trivial. The team grew increasingly frustrated with Bud, the project schedule was in chronic slippage, and management grew increasingly concerned about Bud's ability to deliver. Bud ultimately was removed as project lead.
Thought Leaders Aren't Necessarily Good People Leaders
In my years I've seen many great thought leaders crash and burn when they had to implement one of their creations. In most cases someone in management made the assumption that because the thought leader came up with a great idea, that they could -- and should -- actually implement the idea. This if-then relationship simply doesn't always hold water. Unfortunately this lesson typically is learned the hard way; with the thought leader being thrust into the people leader role only to crash and burn.
Now don't get me wrong; the world desperately needs thought leaders regardless of their ability to lead people. What does need to occur, though, is a conscious recognition of whether a leader is a thought leader, people leader, or can do both. For those leaders who are great thought leaders and not people leaders, don't expect them to implement large-scale solutions. For those who are great people leaders and not thought leaders, don't expect them to design innovative solutions. For those who do both well then enjoy the versatility and leverage it to the fullest.
The nugget here is simple: decide if you are a thought leader, people leader, or you excel at both. Then seek out assignments that best leverage your strength and provide the greatest value to your organization.
Thought Leaders Design Innovative Solutions
People Leaders Implement Innovative Solutions
Keynote Speaker | Board Director | Autism Advocate | Author | Project Management Expert | Microsoft/Accenture Veteran
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