Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 146 – Why Its Time To Recognise Expertise In Management Teams

Dear leaders, it is time to take the lead and start to recognise the unspoken tier of management, the expert. 

I have numerous posts drafted around the problem with the two tracks in the corporate world currently, you are on the
(1) management track and you are
(2) an individual contributor. 

To say I dislike the corporate term of the ‘individual contributor’ is an understatement. 

It is almost disrespectful to those who are not set up to be a manager, who excel in their field and can lead but lead with their expertise rather than with a title and in most cases a lack of management training. 

Mismanagement: The expert has been often mismanaged, they have been promoted out of the role they are great at and often just love doing. 

They are thrust into a position that does not support them or help them transition into people management and it removes their skills or in some cases superpowers and reduces their effectiveness day by day.  

Just because the expert doesn’t fit into how we have always done it or our business is not set up in this way, doesn’t mean there isn’t a smarter way forward. 

I wrote back in 2020 about the changing dynamics needed with the roles of the leader – manager – coach – mentor – operators and reflecting back there should be another level: The Expert. 

Introducing The Expert Track: I often recommend to SLTs through my leadership coaching, that promoting their experts to becoming a manager of a team or discipline is the wrong career move and will negatively impact their org. 

Many of your people have been conditioned to believe that being a manager is the only move for their career, it often is not and especially if you are not set up to support, coach and manage their development. 

Hint: Hire Specialist Managers Not Resume Hires 

Another observation and recommendation I make in coaching is many SLTs rarely hire specialist managers to be leaders of a department or business line, often hindering their performance (& importantly their departments) and the company goes through loops of bad managers and bad hiring until they find a better one 18 months down the line. 

The next alternative is to embrace the expert and enable them to coach those around them (where possible, some areas of expertise are not as transferable as others) and progress generalists around them and act as the internal influencer of the topic, present to the company, attend specialist leadership team meetings, update the x-co or ELT on core changes and important updates and also encourage where applicable to present externally to peers (webinars, conferences etc) and appear on podcasts, newsletters etc. 

Could X Lead Mean Something Now? 

There is often a title that is introduced that creates internal friction when not explained, the “lead”, Tech Lead, Product Lead, Brand Lead, but maybe the expert is a lead it is how the role is framed and how it is communicated to the business that the lead role is for experts who are a valuable resource and a career path here at our business we respect and will nurture. 

This week’s focus action: Review your team and their opportunities and embrace the expert role, introduce this at your management team meeting and identify your panel of experts and discuss how you can roll out the expert or lead role to mean more for your business and your people. 

Have a great week and if you agree or even disagree, let me know your thoughts (newsletter subscribers can hit reply and email me directly, sign up below).


Danny Denhard