(First published on LinkedIN in October 2021)
People tend to feel comfortable with what is obvious. It has a scent of fact. It seems definite, clear, uniform. Especially when we ask for an advice in critical times, we tend to absorb the message of what we should do. Maybe our heading could be defined of (1) our blisters, (2) our passion, and (3) accepting that being a successful leader does not mean that you have to be an expert.
For a couple of months ago I reposted an article from Harvard Business Review. Work With your Blisters, was the advice. Instead of following your passion. Struggle with what you are not good at. Strengthen your weaknesses. I partially agree with that.
However, passion is sometimes an understated currency with a significant resilience in hard times. At Mangaard & Partners, we have daily dialogues with so many talented people, and very often the passion is one element they all have in common in their successful track record.
So, what is this passion thing? It is not always easy to define or find. I was a geeky kid. Could hear through thick brick walls when my father was coming home. Our royal blue Morris Marina 1100 Saloon had an easily recognisable sound as if it was lacking oil, and suffered from automotive asthma. No other kids nor adults in my neighborhood could hear this.
It was obvious I had to become an engineer. Just like my father. And his father. However, the obvious does not automatically imply passion. I left my studies, disappointing my father but pursuing an area that caught my attention and my heart. Economics and marketing.
That has led to 25 years in highly profiled tech and policymaking leadership roles, ironically being leader for engineers, scientists, and IT experts, despite not being an expert in their field. How could this happen? Well, because modern leadership is not about being an expert and being the offline version of Google, having all answers ready when being questioned.
Modern digital leadership is not about having the best technical skills. It is about leading teams in an agile, pivoting, and opportunistic ways. It is about always looking forward, being curious. In other words, basic, academic skills do count, however, mindset plays a big role in having success in tomorrow’s leadership role (or the opposite).
As an Executive Search company we have a very methodical approach to “ticking boxes” when talking with candidates and clients. This is an instrumental discipline important to excel in our line of business.
However, we also address what is outside the obvious range of topics because this brings levels of clarity that can lead us to the insight if this is that very special match – or not.
A hidden connection, if you wish. Consider this. Links to articles below that inspired me on my own path.
Harvard Business Review article “Free Yourself from What You ‘Should’ be Doing” Free Yourself from What You “Should” Be Doing
The AESC’s career service BlueSteps about digital leadership Digital leadership Guide