4 Reasons Why Professional People Struggle When Stepping Up To Leading

As someone who spent 25 years in accountancy, I know that there are many highly competent and capable people who struggle to make the transition to make the transition from highly rated professionals to highly effective leaders.

Why is this and what steps can you take to overcome the challenges?

Reason 1: There Is No Rule Book

Accountancy and indeed most professions are governed by principles, standards and regulations.  When you become a leader it is different.  There is no blueprint, standard or way that will work every time.  Much depends on the context, the situation and organisational norms.

Solution: Accept that being a leader is going to be different.  Seek out opportunities to do new things where there are no guarantees of success.  Get comfortable with ambiguity.

Reason 2: Being A Leader Involves Risk Taking 

If we look at most people in professions, chances are we will find that the majority are risk averse.  This is not surprising and in itself is not a bad thing.  On the other hand if the risk of failure prevents you from taking key decisions you are never going to push the boundaries.

Solution:  Don’t lose your professional skill of playing devils advocate.  At the same time get comfortable taking balanced risks. Accept that some will not work out as intended.

Reason 3: They Lack Confidence

This is an odd one.  Professional people have probably had to work really hard to pass hugely demanding professional exams.  They have proven competence and capability.  Yet they still find that they lack the confidence to speak up and offer their views and let others know the contribution they can really make.

Solution: Don’t confuse lack of understanding of the detail with your ability to contribute.  Be bold and offer your perspectives and insights.  You might just be surprised at the difference it makes.

Reason 4: They Are Too Narrowly Focused In Their Professional Development

To succeed as a leader you need both breadth and depth.  Depth relates to your area of professional expertise.  Breadth is all about your contribution to the wider organisational agenda.

Solution: Make sure you professional development keeps you technically up to date and equips you to make the impact and have the influence you want as a leader.

The Bottom Line: Professional people have in my view many of the attributes required to succeed as a leader. Make sure you focus on what you need to achieve success as you transition to leadership.