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Functional vs. Organizational Leaders

May 14, 2019

What are the transitions that brought you to where you are? Two things are indicative of our journey in leadership: there are two types of leaders.

Everybody starts off as a functional leader. If their trajectory takes them in the right direction, they end up being organizational leaders.

So you start off functioning on projects—in charge of things. When you do this well enough, and somebody comes by and says, ‘You know what? He’s a good functional leader; but maybe he can be an organizational leader as well. Maybe he can be over people.’” This transition sounds simple; but this is where the challenges lie.

When somebody moves from being a functional leader to an organizational leader, they make a major shift. Things don’t talk back to you; people will. Things don’t hold all the challenges that come with managing people. So this is an entirely different hemisphere, and the transition between hemispheres is the biggest challenge.

Whenever you move somebody from being a functional leader to an organizational leader, think hard and long about it. How are they with people? How do they manage conflict? Can they self-discipline themselves? Are they self-starters? Are they people who understand communication? Are they people who really get it?

There have been many exceptionally good functional leaders ruined because somebody thought they’d make a good organizational leader. Just because someone thrives in one hemisphere doesn’t mean they will thrive in the other, as well.

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