Often a great individual contributor deceives herself into believing they are a wonderful leader. An individual contributor is someone who is great at doing tasks, or doing a particular . We have all heard disgruntled co-workers say “nobody can do the job better than I,” or “I should have gotten the promotion, they can’t even do what I do” or (I really hate this one) “If I quit, nobody will be able to take my place” Oh puhleeze! No matter what I think I bring to the table I never lose sight of this: I can be replaced. The job will get done, maybe not as well as I can do it or maybe better than I can do it.
There is nothing wrong with being an individual contributor. Some of my life’s heroes are such. Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein are two of the greatest contributors of all time. They had a certain amount of influence. But they never lead people. Now don’t misunderstand, an individual contributor can learn to lead people!
Being a leader involves working through other people. Being a leader is time consuming and risky. Time consuming because you know you can get it done faster if you do it yourself. But then you aren’t leading. Leading involves allowing others to stumble, learn and possibly missing a deadline with your superiors (and not throwing that person under the bus).
If you are the best at making widgets, don’t assume you can lead others who make the widget.
Which one are you? An Individual Contributor or Leader?