The one reason you may not have got a leadership promotion yet

leadership promotion

You are really good at what you do. Your management, peers and subordinates agree that you do a great job and you have the awards and appraisal ratings to prove that. You have had a fairly steady career growth in the past till you got stuck at the level you are at now. You know you are working with the same efficiency and getting great results. So why isn’t your career graph moving as fast? More importantly why haven’t you got that coveted leadership promotion yet?

How career growth happens at entry levels in an organisation

Lawrence J Peter formulated the Peter’s principle that states, “ In an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence.” This means that employees in an organisation will continue to rise to the next level based on their current performance till they reach a position where they stop performing.

Most careers start out this way. People joint at entry level positions. Those who work hard (or smart) and perform well grow to the next level. This continues to happen for quite a few levels up in the organisation including first few levels of management. Often people start assuming that this is the way to grow all the way to the top.

What changes as you move higher up in the organisation

Myth: Doing your job well and working hard is the ticket to getting a leadership promotion.

Fact: Doing your job well is what you get your current salary for. Doing your job well means you are great at handling your current role. It takes a lot more to grow to a leadership position.

Leadership positions are different from other jobs. Leaders deal with dynamic situations that require quick thinking, creativity and mental tenacity. Hard work is important but not enough. The ability to remain objective, stay focused and lead the team, takes skill and confidence. Any hiring that happens at leadership positions will have these criteria involved. Some other things that recruiters may look for are:

  1. Ability to portray the organisation’s image in the market and with customers, employees and the world at large.
  2. To be able to understand and execute the organizational strategies irrespective of the challenges involved.
  3. Lead large groups and build majority concensus to their ideas. Being able to demonstrate and inspire confidence is important.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to think from a solution mindset when faced with seemingly tough challenges. To handle crisis situations and be able to show quick thinking and decision making when needed.

Hiring managers are more careful and critical while hiring for senior leadership positions than other wise. This is because leadership failure in an organisation has a huge impact on everything from the bottom line to the organisation’s image. Even with the risks in mind any hiring at a leadership position is always a gamble and most recruiters have been burnt at some time or the other, making them even more risk averse.

The thing to keep in mind when you aim for a leadership position is that you need to convince the recruiter about your ability to handle the big challenges that the position involves. Some ways to do that could be:

  • Own it: The person to whom this leadership promotion matters the most is you. It is hence important that you start with taking 100% responsibility for getting this promotion. Yes, your boss may be unsupportive or your organisation may have hiring policies that don’t work for you. If you want this promotion to happen you will need to work with, though and around all the barriers that you think are causing you not to get this role. In the words of Carlton Fisk ,”It is not what you achieve but what you overcome that defines your career”. The key trait of a  good leader is to own the problem and find the solution for it. Your career may be a good place to start practicing this.
  • Zap that negativity: You have been working hard and not getting the results that you want. At the same time people around you who you feel are less competent have been growing really fast. You feel discouraged and demotivated and feel that you are getting a raw deal. The frustration and anger increases when you meet other people who crib about the unfair treatment by the organsation and re-enforces your feeling of being a victim of circumstance. If this sound like you, get over it. The only thing that indulging in self-pity and negativity does is that it takes away your positive energy and leaves you feeling demotivated, drained and exhausted- hardly the sign of a leader. If you want to be considered for a leadership position it s important that you do not let the environment and people around you affect your focus. And remember if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
  • Act like you are almost there: If you know that the promotion was sure to happen how would you be?  How would you dress and carry yourself? If this is difficult to imagine think about some of the best leaders you have worked with. More importantly who would you be when you get to that role? would there be  a shift in confidence and behavior? What do you need to do to make those shifts? Research indicates that confidence levels portrayed by an employee are one of the most critical hiring factors for leadership positions.
  • Have a plan: When you get to the role what would you do? What would be your focus for the business? What would be your plan for your team? In your current role what more can you do and take on? How can you take your current work to the next level. What can you add, change or improve. The sign of a good leader is never to settle for “good enough”. Raise your bar on your own current self; whether it is your skills, your qualification or your performance.
  • Beliefs you need to get over: Do you have beliefs like” I can’t talk about my work, people should see and recognize how good I am” its time to get over them. If you leave your career to others you are accepting the chance that others may overlook your growth. Getting people to know and understand your skills is also your responsibility just like it is every leaders responsibility to make sure his/her team gets the focus and appreciation for their work.

Your career is your business, it is time to manage it like  a CEO – Dorit Sher


  1. Well written, to the point and you have hit the nail on the head 🙂

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