Great Employee, Poor Leader

great employee poor leader

How many times have we seen this?

A person is great at their job, and because of their performance is selected for a leadership position. Expectations are generally high, and shortly afterwards it becomes evident – they’re not a very good leader.

Great employees many times, but not always, make successful transitions into leadership roles. But there are quite a number that never adjust to the responsibility.

When a great employee who is a poor leader assumes their role, the results for both the organization and themselves can be disastrous. Consider the following consequences if the situations are not handled in a proper manner:

  • Continued mistrust in management for selecting another poor manager
  • Feelings of favoritism that the “golden child” got the brass ring
  • The employee feels betrayed by upper management for not equipping them to be successful
  • Division and splits occur throughout the company as sides are chosen
  • He or she wants to go back to their old position but will not be that great employee due to feelings of hurt, inadequacy, or no desire to do their best
  • Time, resources, and a sense of exasperation as the company goes to the drawing board again to find another leadership candidate to assume the role

So how can we find out who those great employees are that also make great leaders? We can do so in the following ways:

  • Have a complete list of skills, traits, and behaviors that leaders should be made of and match them up against the candidates
  • Find out through a 360-degree process how others view his or her leadership skills, as they know to be
  • Ask during the interview process what their understanding of leadership is
  • Ensure that the company core values are deeply ingrained and how they understand the larger scope of these values in their new role
  • Give them every ounce of training and mentoring to ensure they will have a successful transition, and tenure, in their new responsibilities
  • Identify the leadership “soft skills” that he or she may have and start to develop them before the opportunity to grow into that role becomes available

In addition, keep in mind that most great employees are great at their jobs because they have the capacity to perform at a high level for that role. The jump to leadership takes on many new hard and soft skills, some of which they may or may not have. And many times, your best leaders may not be your best employees.

Give your great staff the chance to succeed in their new roles. In fact, give everyone that opportunity and you’ll be amazed at the growth you will see in your people.


About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on January.6.2015, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This is a really good article on leadership. I believe one of the serious problems with leadership today is lack of people skills when it comes to dealing with co-workers. Some new leaders are misguided by the concept and authority that leadership brings. One serious attribute of great leadership is being a great follower. You have to know what you received from a leader who inspired and motivated you. If you can’t listen as a follower, you will likely fail as a leader who listens.


  1. Pingback: Leaders, problems, and action – Aide Memoire

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