It seems like a no-brainer. Take your best employee, promote them to a managerial role, and have them lead a team of their co-workers. Before long, you’ll have used one person’s abilities to cultivate others’, turning one star employee into ten.
If only workforce development were that simple.
The truth is that not all productive employees are born leaders. Just because you’re really good at your job doesn’t mean you have what it takes to help other people be better at theirs.
Assuming otherwise can get organizations into real trouble. As leadership experts Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review:
“When a company needs a supervisor for a team, senior leaders often anoint the team’s most productive performer. Some of these stars succeed in their new role as manager; many others do not. And when they fail, they tend to leave the organization, costing the company double: Not only has the team lost its new manager, but it’s also lost the best individual contributor. And the failure can be personally costly for the new manager, causing them to doubt their skills, smarts, and future career path. Everyone loses.”