Developing Your Technical Experts Into Organizational Leaders

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
  • One of the most difficult transitions for individuals with technical backgrounds or who work in technical organizations is the one into leadership positions. Often, their instinct is to build a broader base of knowledge, experience, and technical know-how. However, in practice, technical expertise alone does not define leadership success.

    Developing organizational leaders requires you to challenge individuals to make three fundamental shifts and one gigantic leap in their development. Additionally, it is important for them to adopt different perspectives and evolve from hands-on execution to working through others to lead the business. Specifically, it means moving from:

    being the smartest person in the room to developing smart thinkers who produce results 

  • focusing on what the job requires to determining the key individuals who will complete the task and getting their buy-in 
  • being tactical to operating at a higher, more strategic level.

Shift 1: From Expertise to Credibility

This is often a difficult transition because individual contributors are recognized for building a base of expertise. However, there is a point where a person’s value is based not only on how much she knows, but on how she helps others succeed. This builds a base of credibility and trust, by committing and delivering results to others.


Shift 2: From Credibility to Alignment and Execution

Given the highly matrixed nature of today’s organizations and the need to work across functional boundaries, achieving results through others is rapidly becoming a common requirement. The shift into alignment and execution is like moving from first violinist to orchestra conductor or from quarterback to coach. The value an individual creates through this shift produces the conditions for others to succeed.

Shift 3: From Alignment and Execution to Being Strategic

The pressures of cost reduction and competitive threats require leaders to see the broader picture. This is not simply running the day-to-day operations, but having a strategic vision amplified by understanding why something is important. Without a strategic perspective, the issues of relevance and economic viability are moot.

The Gigantic Leap

Moving from technical experts to organizational leaders also requires a major leap—from building individual competence to creating organizational capacity. Capacity is created by developing leaders who help run the business. It is their focus on building relationships and learning the business, not building technical depth, that defines future success.

If you are interested in learning how to help technical experts make the shift to organizational leaders, join us for a complimentary ATD members-only webcast about “Developing Your Technical Experts Into Organizational Leaders” on Thursday, October 22, 2015, from 1 to 2 p.m. ET.

About the Author

Senior Partner, Camden Consulting Group 

Bob is a senior partner with Camden Consulting Group, overseeing leadership development and management training. A skilled strategist, facilitator, and executive coach, he designs and delivers executive coaching and leadership development services for Camden's clients.

Camden Consulting is a consulting firm that provides focused, practical, customized, and integrated human capital management, leadership development, executive coaching, and training services to organizations and their employees. Visit them at

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