You Can Max Out as a Leader

Have you maxed out as a leader? It happens. As we get bigger, I see more people max out as leaders.

Not everyone can scale with the operation. It’s a documented management concept called the “Peter Principle.” This principle, first published in 1969 by Laurence J. Peter, recognizes that the effectiveness of individuals can progressively diminish as they are promoted.

While it’s common in organizations to look at current performance in a job when promoting individuals, this principle reminds us that good performance in one leadership role does not guarantee a similar performance in another. I know firsthand leading a smaller organization is not the same as leading a large enterprise. The size of the organization and the scope of the job does matter, as I shared in this recent blog.

So how do you know if you’re maxing out?
Here are a few of the signs that I’ve seen:

  1. Slow or reluctant to make decisions.
    Decisions become bigger and more complicated as the organization – and the leader’s role – expands. Leaders can go from easily making decisions to being paralyzed by the data, feedback or impact of the decision. Decision-making is a key component of leadership, and some decisions are just plain harder to make. But leaders are called to thin slice the information to make the decision in a timely matter.

  2. Lacking clear and consistent delegation.
    As leaders develop, they need to shift from doing to delegating. Leaders of small organizations may do much of the work themselves. But in a growth company, they need to delegate some of the tasks to other competent people. Letting go and letting others do the work is a difficult transition for some leaders to make. You’ll often hear me say, "you need to give up control to get control." What this means is you need to know what tasks you can delegate and when you need to stay involved.

  3. Difficulty building a team.
    One of the most important tasks of a leader is to attract and hire the talent needed to grow the organization. Good leaders attract people who can – and will – replace them at the appropriate time. Having a strong No. 2 is essential, but I’ve seen many leaders struggle to find or mentor the right person with the right skills to fill this position. Keeping your saw sharp and staying contemporary allows you to find and keep the right people to build a high-performing team.

  4. Not being able to see around corners.
    Leaders need to be able to see around the corner and have the vision to implement and drive a strategy to successfully keep their organizations relevant. No coasting allowed. You need to be comfortable taking risks, living with the consequences and focusing on your next move. When you’re no longer able to see around the corners, you’re no longer effective.
We probably all have a max out point. Just like at the gym, surpassing it leads to fatigue and sometimes the inability to continue what once felt routine. By knowing your limits and recognizing the limitations of others, you’ll go farther – faster – and probably longer…


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Topics: Leadership Team, Professional Development, Growth