Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Becoming a Leader

Image from: 1.00 FTE

One of my favorite bloggers, Art Petty, has a post about the Nine Key Professional Capabilities Required by Our Times.   While I agree that all of his capabilities are important, they miss what has to come first.  Developing a hard skill.  In this brave new world, managers need to develop (or better yet, have developed before they become managers) a hard skill.

Let me define what I mean.  A hard skill is the ability to do something that takes time to learn (I'll go with Gladwell's 10,000 hours), some measure of talent and some exposure to something that prevents you from being exposed to other things.

For example, coding.  It probably takes about 10,000 hours to become a competent developer.  Also, you need some mental ability and intelligence.  And finally, cultivating your coding skills prevents you from doing other things. [Editor: For you, that would be dating.]

Carpentry, plumbing, wiring a network, becoming a CPA, learning the sales process etc. are all examples of skills.  The days of being a manager (or leader) who has an MBA and can do some analysis in Excel are gone.  The days of middle management are gone.

If you want to be a manager or a leader in this brave new world, you have to be able to deliver something which requires cultivated skills in addition to being an authentic, empathetic manager/leader.

Facts are facts.  Between China, India, the Philippines, Brazil and the rest of the developing world, there are about 3 billion more people that you have to compete with to be a manager/leader.  Americans and Europeans have a much higher standard of living, however, people from the developing world are willing to work much harder and will happily adjust you out on your keister.

If you want to become a leader, first develop a skill.

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