What is the tradeoff between knowledge skill and leadership skill for leaders? I’ll give you a lawyer’s answer: It depends. Depends on what?
My barber for the last five years or so has been a horse-riding grandma named Genie. She cuts hair Monday-Friday and rides on Saturday-Sunday with her granddaughter. Genie has a one-chair barbershop. She has no employees. I go to her because I like the way she cuts my hair (no comments, please). I don’t give a rip what kind of leader she is. She needs a large dose of knowledge skill—almost no leadership skill.
However, if Genie decided to expand, add another barber or two, or even another shop or two, then her need for leadership skill would increase. If she was the senior leader at Supercuts (over 2000 shops), then leadership skill would be paramount; she wouldn’t need to know much at all about how to cut hair (though it would help if she did).
When I migrated (in 2000) from aerospace (large/complex) to a Gulf Coast commercial shipyard (small/simple by comparison), I learned the hard way that my leadership skill wasn’t enough. To be successful, I needed a lot more knowledge about the maritime business. This story did not have a happy ending.
You must have the knowledge skill appropriate for your job. And you must have the leadership skill appropriate for your job. In small/simple organizations, the leader’s knowledge skill is most important. In large/complex organizations, the leader’s leadership skill is most important.
It’s important for you to know where you are on the knowledge/leadership scale. Which do you need the most of? The questions you are asked by employees will tell you. “How” or “Help” questions require knowledge to answer. “What” or “Why” questions require leadership to answer.
Get this right, and your Leadership FICO Score will increase; good for you and for the organization.
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Copyright 2015 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
The Leadership Credibility series (click to read):
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner
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