Episode 6: Individual Performer vs. Leader

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Having an individual performer mindset as a leader can mess you up. In this episode, learn how these mistakes happen and how to avoid them.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • What’s the difference between an individual performer and a leader?
  • People make mistakes when hiring an individual performer versus someone with leadership and management skills.
  • What happens when an individual performer gets into these leadership positions?
  • Why is it necessary to train and prepare an individual performer before moving them into a leadership position?

Full Episode Transcript


One failure that happens in leadership comes from the different meanings of individual performers and leaders. Sometimes people get these confused in their positions and it messes them up as a leader. So in this episode, we’re going to dive into the differences and the mistakes that were made, so that you can avoid them as a leader yourself and so you can recognize them and possibly even help others.


What’s the difference between an individual performer and a leader?

So first, an individual performer performs. They’re in a position, in a function where they contribute themselves. It’s their work that matters. They produce, for example, a salesperson. They produce sales. A marketing person may create marketing material, and so on.

A leader’s job on the other hand, isn’t really to get results themselves, but to lead a group of people to get results. Does that difference make sense? As a leader, you’re no longer about performing yourself to make things happen, you’re about getting others, leading others to get results.

"As a leader, you're no longer about performing yourself to make things happen, you're about getting others, leading others to get results." ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X


People make mistakes when hiring an individual performer versus someone with leadership and management skills.

So one of the first mistakes people make when it comes to this difference is that sometimes people hire or promote people from a position based on how they perform as an individual versus their leadership and management skills.

Let’s say someone is really good at sales, they do really well, and they sell very well. So as a reward because they performed so well, they promote them to a sales manager. The thing is, selling stuff and managing salespeople are two different functions and they require different skills.

It’s just because someone’s good as a salesperson doesn’t mean they’ll be good at managing salespeople. This applies to marketing and even applies to education. From my perspective, people are often hired because of their knowledge and their degrees.

They have a doctorate in something, so they get put in these leadership positions in education. Just because you have a doctorate, because you are knowledgeable, doesn’t mean you’re good at leadership. There’s a big difference there.

In general, we’ll talk about this in another episode, it’s better to have lower competence and high trust and influence versus having super high competence and knowledge but low trust, influence, and leadership ability. So often, the people hired in these positions don’t have the skills they need to perform well because it’s a different function. They’re not performing individually anymore. They’re performing. They’re leading a team to perform.

One reason people are sometimes brought up to these positions in this way is that the people who are hiring them don’t understand it themselves. They’re not necessarily the best leaders themselves. So they hire other people who will end up not being great leaders either. They don’t know if they have the skill because maybe they don’t have the skill. That may not always be the case, but that probably happens a lot.


What happens when an individual performer gets into these leadership positions?

The second mistake, what happens when these people get into these positions is that they think performance verse leading. They were a salesperson and now they’re a sales manager. But their mindset’s not. “Hey, I need to lead people to get these results.” Their mindset is often I still need to get results myself. They’re still in that performer mindset and so sometimes they try to do the sales themselves.

Maybe they try to do it all themselves. Maybe they try to take over from people. Maybe they feel like they have to be there in every cell, otherwise, they’re not being a great leader. And sometimes being in that leadership position kind of builds a little bit of arrogance, depending if they don’t understand it, maybe they don’t listen well because they think they’re a high performer or a leader now.

They don’t need to listen to others’ inputs, whatever they may be. They get the wrong mindset because third mistake, they weren’t trained. It’s not necessarily bad to raise someone up who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge in leadership because none of us start with the perfect knowledge or all the knowledge. We need to be a great look at that. We have to grow into it.


Why is it necessary to train and prepare an individual performer before moving them into a leadership position?

So if you’re going to move someone into a position of leadership, you need to train and prepare them. Sometimes this doesn’t happen because as we said before, sometimes the people who bring them up don’t know themselves. They assume because they’re a performer, they can lead well.

They don’t recognize the different skills that, so they don’t train them, they just assume. Part of that too is the mindset of if someone’s performing well, the next step is management. And that shouldn’t be the only option.

If someone wants to continue in sales, then they should have some kind of track to continue in sales. If someone wants to stick with marketing, they should have some kind of track to stick with marketing. The move to management should not be automatic because not everybody wants to be that and not everybody wants to go through all the training that will take to be a great leader.

So, it’s important when people are put in these positions from performers and they’re moving to management, make sure there’s some training for them. That’s important because often you don’t know what you don’t know.

These people are put in these positions and they don’t know that they don’t know leadership well. They just see the clichés, the memes, and the superficial stuff on LinkedIn, whatever it is, and they don’t understand that, oh, there’s a whole another death of level.

There’s so much, I don’t know, as a leader, I didn’t realize that I was supposed to stop the performing mentality and grab that leadership mentality. So if you’re that person, if you’re that leader or manager who was moved from performer to now manager and you weren’t trained, you don’t know much about leadership, that’s okay. Don’t feel bad about it. Just start learning. That’s the best thing.

Awareness is the first big step. If you realize, hey, I have ways to go, that’s good. That means you have the right mentality and attitude and can start growing. So I encourage you to do that. Keep listening to this podcast or read a bunch of Leadership articles on our website.

"Awareness is the first big step." ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

We actually have an article on our website about some of the best leadership books you can read. And if you want some more ideas, you can email me and I can share some of the things that I’m reading myself or read lightly or that I recommend.

You can find a mentor or other leaders and try to learn from them. If you are a leader whose hiring people, who are promoting people from a performer position to a manager or leader position, make sure to give them training. Make sure they know what they don’t know. Make sure they understand what the job entails, that it’s not a performer job anymore, that they’re leading others to perform, and that they’re leading others to bring about results.

Don’t set them up for failure. Help them transition, mentor them, and don’t leave them hanging.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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