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Let Xenonex Develop the Leaders You’ve Been Overlooking

The Xenonex team spend a lot of time working with some of the most senior employees within an organisation.  However, our experience has shown that when leadership is developed throughout an organisation then the outcomes for employees and employer can be significant.


I found this edited article by US leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman interesting and thought you might too.  It’s up to all of us to ensure we recognise the contribution made by all employees within an organisation and develop the right people, regardless of job title!


Say the word leader and most people immediately think of those with business cards that says “manager,” “director,” or other such lofty title. That is, the people who hold positions of stature within a company’s hierarchy, to whom several individuals report, and whose influence comes in great measure from the positions they hold.


But anyone who has worked in organisations knows that there are also people without managerial titles, and who have no direct reports, and yet wield great influence and make critical contributions to the firm. These are the highly professional individual contributors.  In many cases they have deliberately chosen not to pursue a managerial career.


Every organisation has such people.  It may be someone in product development who plays an essential role in the selection and development of new products.  It may be a key salesperson, who because of some unique connection with customers exerts a powerful influence on the organisation’s market strategy. These individuals often meet the important criteria of true leaders, but they often get overlooked for any kind of leadership development because they don’t manage or supervise anyone.


There are many reasons for investing in this group.


First, investing in their leadership development will make these valuable people feel highly valued, signalling that the organisation respects their contribution enough to provide for their continuing development.


Second, talented individuals are more inclined to stay with organisations when they feel they are progressing. In most large organisations, a similar percentage of this group is eligible for retirement in the next five years as their management colleagues (that is, more than a half), and their departure would be a huge loss for the organisation.
Third, they will enjoy increased success. These professional individual contributors succeed in part because of their professional expertise, but just as much because of their ability to work well with others, and communicate effectively with other departments and levels of the organisations.  Leadership development efforts can make them better team players, improve their communication skills, and teach them to be better coaches, skills that are particularly important for people who, given their lack of formal organisational power, must accomplish nearly everything they do through informal influence.


Fourth, some of them could well develop into excellent managers, and they could begin such a transition without a shift in their formal position. There are obvious advantages to identifying management potential before promoting some other valuable contributor who will turn out to be unsuited or unhappy in that role. What’s more, as they learn to be more effective interpersonally and become more attuned to the people issues, many with management potential may become increasingly open to managerial roles. Even those who don’t will be more apt to adopt some of the perspectives and behaviours of managers—such as being concerned about developing others and not always taking the short-term, expedient path of “Oh, here, let me do that.”


Individual contributors are a huge asset for every organisation. Yet they typically fail to show up on anyone’s radar screen for development. We believe organisations are missing a great opportunity to retain these key people, to help them be even more influential, and to prepare a portion of them for key managerial positions in the firm.

How could these forgotten resources be benefiting your own organisation within the seasons to come?


Xenonex based in Leeds delivers innovative and bespoke client-centered solutions in Leadership Development and training across the UK. We work to maximise and transform the way people work. To find out more contact Jo Watson, Business Development Manager on 01423 876371 or email jo.watson@xenonex.co.uk


Suzanna Prout