Harvard Business Review released this article by Zenger & Folkman some time ago, but the key message is timeless. The best performers don’t automatically make the best managers and leaders. So if you are planning on being a CAE, Internal Audit Director or Head of Internal Audit, it is critical to have the self awareness of your own current skills and the skills of those in your team.
We have written about leadership in Internal Audit many times before, and have pointed out how unsuccessful it is to promote people on time served, or on being the best performer in their current role. What is critical, are the skills and competencies that will make you great at the role you are moving into, rather than the one you are doing now.
The article explains that to be the best performer in a non-leadership role, individuals usually demonstrate competencies which leverage individual skills and individual effectiveness. Whereas the competencies of a good manager/leader require skills focused on others, rather than self.
Zenger & Folkman particularly highlight the following leadership competencies:
Being open to feedback and personal change. A key skill for new managers is the willingness to ask for and act on feedback from others. They seek to be more self-aware. They are on a continuing quest to get better.
Supporting others’ development. All leaders, whether they are supervisors or managers, need to be concerned about developing others. While individual contributors can focus on their own development, great managers take pride in helping others.
Being open to innovation. The person who focuses on productivity often has found a workable process, and they strive to make that process work as efficiently as possible. Leaders, on the other hand, recognize that innovation often isn’t linear or particularly efficient. An inspiring leader is open to creativity and understands that it can take time.
Communicating well. One of the most critical skills for managers is their ability to present their ideas to others in an interesting and engaging manner. A certain amount of communication is required for the highly productive individual contributor, but communication is not the central core of their effectiveness.
Having good interpersonal skills. This is a requirement for effective managers. Emotional intelligence has become seen as perhaps the essential leadership skill. Although highly productive individuals are not loners, hermits, or curmudgeons, being highly productive often does not require a person to have excellent interpersonal skills.
Supporting organizational changes. While highly productive individuals can be relatively self-centered, leaders and managers must place the organization above themselves.
The highest performers at a non-leadership level often scored poorly on the above competencies.
Clearly this is not the case for everyone and the very best leaders score brilliantly on both individual and leadership competencies.
However the key takeaway is:
If you are outstanding in your current Internal Audit role it does not mean you are ready for leadership. If you haven’t already done so, sit with a mentor and review how you would score on the above leadership competencies. In addition you should be very wary of automatically promoting your best performers without carefully considering if they have the different skills required for management / leadership.
Here at IAC we not only provide an Executive Search service to the Internal Audit profession but can also provide leadership development programmes for aspiring Internal Audit leaders. Please contact us if you would like to discuss the details.