Professionals who have demonstrated strong technical expertise in their chosen field often find themselves thrust into leadership roles. For those who have excelled at complex, technical work throughout high school, college, graduate school and the workforce, the new leadership role may come with unfamiliar challenges.

How do you shift from being a technical expert and evolve to become a complete leader?

New Leadership Roles Require a Mindset Shift

How do talented technicians – accountants, architects, scientists, engineers, financial planners and other technically proficient professionals – find themselves in this unfamiliar territory? Usually, it’s because of their considerable talent and high achievement mentality.

These successful individuals are promoted into managerial roles or start their own firms because they are intelligent, skilled, and highly talented in their field.  They are the best of the best.  But all too often once they’re in their new role, they realize that the considerable skills they’ve honed for years do not translate to leadership success, building high performing teams or inspiring others.

The adjustment can be jarring and lead to frustration for their employees, colleagues, bosses and even for the leaders themselves. However, it is a challenge that can be overcome with intentional effort through developing a new mindset and the leadership skills for success.

Making the Shift from Technical Expert to Leader

The act of leadership is very different from that of learning and practicing a technical skill. Often, talented technical professionals have excelled from an early age at the precise skills that deliver success.

The skills necessary to become an effective leader are different but can be achieved through the learning attributes that the technical expert possesses. An important key is revealing how the person learns and using that knowledge to drive the journey.

For many, the necessary skills to be built and honed are related to emotional intelligence. This important area for leaders is typically not as developed or stimulated through our traditional, technical education. Stretching into this area allows leaders to develop the important skills, behaviors and agility necessary for long-term leadership success.

Leaders must understand the role and environment they find themselves in and spend more time and focus on their interactions with key players in that environment (teammates, stakeholders, colleagues, partners, etc). Success comes through building awareness and focus on core tenets of emotional intelligence:

  • Building strong self-awareness
  • Building trust with others
  • Reading the behavioral and communication styles of others
  • Understanding how others are motivated

For these leaders, this learning and effort can be frustrating because it is very unlike the core technical work they excel at. The technical learning came naturally and easily with the proper effort, but this leadership journey seems hard.  This is where a leadership coach can provide tremendous support and be a catalyst for growth.

Building Your Leadership Skills

How does this work in practice? Consider the example of one of my clients, a successful chief financial officer. Gifted and technically savvy, he became the CFO at a relatively young age, and was seen as uniquely talented with enormous potential.

Shortly after taking the role, he began to face tensions and challenges, with particular difficulty in building relationships. He quickly grew frustrated and was considering leaving the position, fearful he would lose his job.

When we began working together, we focused on building emotional intelligence, especially in self-awareness and connecting with and partnering with others. He began to think more about the people around him, what they needed from him and what they expected.

Over the first few months of practicing this purpose-driven approach, he began to see very different results, improved outcomes and significantly better relationships.

Learning Leads to Successful Leadership

Just as technical skills were not learned overnight, neither are leadership skills. As you learned how to be a great engineer (accountant, architect, analyst, product specialist), you can also grow into a great leader. It takes a different mindset and different cultivation of your talent.

If you emerged in your career as a technically skilled leader, strong and successful in your chosen profession, know that I did too. I will understand how you are wired, will recognize how you learn best, and will assist you in the important pivot into being a complete leader. Just as you learned the technical skills, with hard work and intentional practice, we can build your leadership ability.

Key Takeaways

  • Technical expertise does not necessarily translate to leadership excellence. It takes a mindset shift and intentional development and learning.
  • Developing leadership skills includes focusing on emotional intelligence.
  • Building emotional intelligence, learning how to build trust and understanding the behaviors and motivations of others can be accelerated through partnering with a skilled leadership coach.

The important transformational work to becoming a stronger leader can have a powerful impact on your career, relationships and business. To learn more about how to shift from a technical expert to an impactful and complete leader, contact us today!