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Don't Accept Your Next Leadership Appointment Without Reading This

Congratulations on being offered a promotion into, or along, your leadership path. It is always great to feel appreciated for our contributions to the organisation. Apart from the obvious salary jump, we will also have greater responsibilities, and can better help the organisation meet its objectives. Our actions will now amount to a greater impact on business results, and that is very electrifying. However, before you let the euphoria go to your head and accept an offer you may be better off rejecting, it pays to take heed of the Peter Principle, formulated by Laurence J. Peter, who said,

"Managers (leaders) are promoted to their point of incompetence."

What this means it that leaders who do a good job are often promoted until (s)he fails in his/her final appointment. Obviously, at this point, the promotions stop. This is the point of incompetence. In such cases, both the organisation and the leader regret the decision for the final promotion - the organisation for offering it, and the leader for accepting it. Sometimes, and if circumstances permit, the leader may be able to reclaim the previous job and return to the peak of competence. Other times, there might be a new (lower) position in a different department where (s)he can be posted to and start building afresh. Yet other times, and this is more often the case, the now-incompetent leader will leave the organisation, either voluntarily or involuntarily. And this leads to a brain drain for the company. After all, they have invested so much in this leader only to see him/her leave.

So the question of, "Should you take that promotion offer?" is not a trivial one. In this post, we share 15 critical questions that you can ask to clarify the situation, and ascertain if indeed, it is worth taking the offer up...

15 Critical Questions

In their book, "First-Time Leader", George Bradt and Gillian Davis share these 15 important questions that you should ask and get truthful answers to, before you decide to take up the offer or not. These deal with risks inherent in your decision, and are categorised as organisational risk, role risk and personal risk.

Mitigating organisational risk

Even if you have been working in that organisation for years, you should still ask these questions. It is even more important that you get these answered if you are being hired from outside....

1. What is the organisation's sustainable competitive advantage? 2. Is there any risk with the current customer base? 3. Are there any relationship risks with significant collaborators of the organisation? 4. Does the organisation have any capabilities for long term success? 5. Do competitors pose significant risks to the viability of the organisation? 6. Are there any external environmental conditions that will impact the viability of the organisation?

Some strategic thinkers in this forum will recognise that these are the 5 C's that some use to assess organisational risk. You too need to look at your potential employer with such strategic lens. After all, if there is a poorly defined customer base (or one that is fickle and transitory); if there is tension with suppliers (and if suppliers are not paid on time); if the company does not have any internal capabilities, either by way of technology, intellectual property, or state-of-the-art business model; if the competitive space is so crowded that there is no real competitive advantage - or that there are disruptive models coming up with new market entrants; and if the external environment, including regulatory frameworks, are conspiring against the organisation, this is NOT one that you might want to cast your lot with. And if this is YOUR company now, then you might well want to look around for alternatives since there might currently not be a long-term solution for you. But you could still find some value by facing the challenge head-on and implement strategies that can swing the ship around. Of course, this is not easy to implement with so many stakeholders in the fray, so always keep your options open.

Mitigating role risk

Now let's look at the next perspective of risk - the role. This impacts directly the way that you will executive your job, and there are many multi-layered elements and assumptions embedded here. It may not be easy to get all the answers, and it may entail you asking others in the department, the incumbent (if available), colleagues, and others that know about the role. Since this directly impacts you, you must pay special attention to these questions:

7. Did anyone have any concerns about this role, and if so, what was done to address them?

8. Why does the position exist? Why was the role created in the first place?

9. What are the objectives and outcomes of the role? What has been accomplished in the past? What were some of the issues going forward?

10. What is the impact of this role on the rest of the organisation? What kinds of interactions are expected with different stakeholders?

11. What are the specific responsibilities of this role, including decision-making authority and direct reports?