Many organizations have struggled after foisting leadership responsibility on employees who weren’t ready, or weren’t wired for the job.
Long before he appeared on reality TV, Steve Wozniak was the engineer who invented the first Apple computer. But he might never have taken that job if he hadn’t been able to find a role in that new company that suited his strengths.
Wozniak was a programmer at HP when he was approached about the job at Apple. He knew he didn’t want to be a corporate leader, so he was worried about joining a new company. But he was promised he wouldn’t have to go into management - he could stay at the bottom of the organization chart as an engineer.
Instead, Apple turned to Mike Markkula, a successful angel investor, to run the company, and Wozniak was able to continue doing what he did best: be a technical leader for the company. The results of this key decision speak for themselves.
The Wozniak story demonstrates that it’s not always necessary to force a strong technical performer into a leadership role. In fact, lots of organizations have struggled after foisting leadership responsibility on employees who weren’t ready, or weren’t wired for the job.
So why don’t more people take Wozniak’s approach? Sometimes it’s an individual problem: many people lack the self-awareness he had. But it can often be an organizational problem, too: organizations don’t tend to value technical leadership as highly, so the management track looks like the only option. Many people feel they need to take on leadership roles just to get the fatter paycheck, the nicer office, and the increased power and authority. But if you’re considering a leadership role just for the perks, you should rethink that decision.
The fact is that leadership is hard. But if you’re wired for it, and prepared for it, it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. It’s an opportunity to build a team, drive higher performance, and leave a lasting impression on your customers, your organization, and the communities in which you do business.
In my next post, I’ll provide four questions to help you answer the question: So you think you can lead?