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The Accidental Leader

By Steve Wright

It was never planned, it just happened. After years of enjoying what you do, and consequently doing quite well, your efforts and results have been recognised by management. They asked you to lead a small group and coach up a few other staff to work with you and 'learn from the master'.

While work was still quite enjoyable and some people blossomed under you, others didn't. You were also unaware that your personal output was starting to suffer.

More time passed and continued good performance, along with adequate to good results from your team, as well as possibly length of service, put you in line for more responsibility and a larger team.

Now with five or more people reporting to you, you are having trouble getting to the work you were so good at years ago, let alone excelling at it. A greater proportion of your team are not performing as well as you felt you did. Management seem a little disinterested in your specific work and are talking more about your teams output being not quite what they expected from such a high performer as yourself.

You have become an Accidental Leader. Your excellence in your field has resulted in you moving into people leadership, about which you have little if any training, without you even realising it.

This is an all too common scenario. The Peter Principle is about being promoted one step beyond your abilities due to your adequate performance at the previous level. This issue is more about being given a job in another profession. Medium size business is faltering at the middle management levels where great "doers" are being forced to try and reproduce their output in others, without any of the basic skills needed to do that.

There is no logical reason why someone who is a great developer, graphic designer, fireman or mechanic would have the skills required to replicate the same results from a team of people. Maybe they might be great technical coaches, passing on the experience of the work to a number of other like skilled people, but leading a team is a very different challenge.

At the most basic level, unless every team member is a "mini me" of the leader, what drove them to the success of their job, is not going to work for most of the team.

This is where I have found myself.

How many of you out there feel the same?

The first step for us is to realise we are not inadequate and doomed for failure, and that there are many, many of us. Leading a team to produce what we so enjoyed doing personally, can be infinitely more rewarding if we appreciate that we are still producing the same output, but more of it and better crafted because we have a wider range of skills doing it. Think of it as a different way of creating the same result, but better. We simply have to learn how.

If you consider the underlying drivers that made you good at the hands-on work, you will discover that those same drivers apply in your new leadership role. The passion for the output will be just as applicable in helping you skill up in your new profession as it was with the previous one.

The next step is to accept we need to learn the new profession.

Maybe at some stage you tried a few leadership courses and read some books but, they didn't seem have too much impact. - The difference this time is going to be commitment.

Over the next year, and it will take at least that long to make a good start, I am going to focus on what it takes for me to move from simply being a leader to showing leadership. Of the endless resources available, I am going to endeavour to highlight just the key ones that helped me make the start in the right direction.

This is not about becoming the greatest leader known to man, this is about the basics of a profession that I don't remember choosing to be part of and that about which there is so much information I am struggling to know where to start.

Through building a community of people with the same challenge, sharing our experiences, and learning together, we will not only regain the satisfaction of our previous success, but revel in the exhilaration of the greater team's performance.

Join with me and lets us share this experience together. I have this central site ( that I am starting to collect resources and will be posting experiences and reviews to. I have set out a very basic agenda, but this journey has a different destination for all of us, so expect lots of changes to the path.

Please email me and comment at the blog site ( If you have a specific area or concern you want covered raise it now and let's see if we can build it into the curriculum.

Be brave, be famous.

Cheers Steve

About The Author
Steve Wright

Having found myself suddenly a leader, I have started a journey of ledership discovery, this being an early step. Come join me at

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