Expert vs. Coach

There has been a shift in the corporate leadership model in the past decade or two. Historically, leadership paths have been focused on the ladder concept where an employee would start from the bottom, become a domain expert to the point where they train others and eventually become the one that oversaw individual contributor’s work and rated their performance.

Leadership career paths are much more flexible today. Effective leaders are given additional responsibility based less on their domain knowledge but more on their ability to manage details of a business (ie. budget, stakeholders, vendor management, etc…) and their capacity to produce results with teams they manage.

This shift does not require the leader to understand the nuances of every tool in their toolbox. It does place more emphasis on coaching employees that are domain experts to meet and exceed the needs of the business.

For the most part, this is good! However, as a leader it is important to remain in-touch with the pace of change in the marketplace. While there is a threshold of ‘ignorance’ that can be tolerated by employees of their leader, there is a drop off point. If you as a leader cannot understand the primary concepts of the domain, connect the dots of the technology and generally not speak the ‘lingo’, employee’s will loose respect for your effectiveness as a leader even if you are good at all the ‘business stuff’.

At minimum, be sure to stay tuned into the industry. Join webinars and attend training sessions as much as possible. As with many things, showing your team that you are taking initiative to learn more about their domain can be a major factor in earning their trust and respect.