[May 21, 2020] Long ago, I lost count of the number of mid and senior grade Army officers and Sergeants that I counseled because they did not get promoted as expected. The reasons can be complicated but the more common reasons I will list here. Yet, while there are differences across organizations, most are the same.
We all want to advance ourselves: in our jobs, in church, with the sports team we play on, and even at home. Humans, by our very nature, are trying to get from Point A (where we are today) to Point B (some undefined time in the future that is better). We don’t always succeed, but each of us strives to improve our lives, a worthy cause without end.
The “culture” of the organization is what matters most and aligning oneself in that culture is neither an easy task nor is it necessarily rewarding. Anyone who does not believe in and support the organizational norms, values, and ways of getting the job done will run into unending obstacles to their advancement.
“The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.” – John C. Maxwell
Here are several reasons why leaders don’t get promoted:
- They lack the required technical or technical skills necessary to do the job. To do this, however, a leader must clearly and regularly demonstrate they have the talent to do the job they desire.
- They have not successfully held the required jobs. This is often informal, but senior leaders expect to see a progression in positions from simple to more complex and success in each.
- They lack motivation and a positive attitude. Too many leaders want a promotion because they believe they deserve it by merely being there. Nothing is further from the truth. Every day is an audition for their next promotion.
- A lack of professionalism. Over time, it is expected that leaders adopt more significant levels of responsibility, be circumspect, develop a good sense of judgment, and complete difficult tasks with little guidance.
- They don’t take ownership. They lack initiative. It’s too easy to walk by a problem, complain about it, or ignore a challenge. Taking ownership means going out of a leader’s way to fix a problem even if the boss didn’t tell you to do it.
- Thinking like a manager and not as a leader. Like the Maxwell quote above, the boss says, “go” – the leader says, “let’s go.” Managers are interested in things, administrative issues, and making sure everything is in order. Leaders are about people’s care and mission accomplishment.
- You know somebody (important or with ‘connections). Knowing someone special may give a leader a critical start, but without the proven ability to complete tasks, it will provide little help and will often harm their chances for promotion.