By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

How would your managers react if a confident and competent candidate walked into the interview room and responded to the classic question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” with a bullish response: “On the other side of this desk doing your job”.

Would your managers be threatened by the burning ambition and the thought of being usurped, or would they relish the opportunity to groom and mold this candidate in their own image?

Of course, this scenario is probably more urban myth than reality, but the concept of insecure leaders being fearful of developing and grooming talent is real. In firms it can often take the form of a leader who heavily micromanages teams and who is fearful of devolving power to subordinates who might grow, usurp and or render the manager obsolete. The manager may be reluctant to empower individuals, stretch them and give them the capacity to grow.

It’s understandable in an evolutionary sense because if leaders of ancient human tribes did not suppress challengers they could face a crushing demotion, death or excommunication. This protégé blocking is a remnant of this self-preservation type behavior, but has no place in the corporate world – and carries several negative effects.

For starters, it will impact your organizational succession planning as these insecure leaders will not groom high-potentials for your pipeline. Secondly, you are likely to experience higher turnover in  teams led by insecure leaders as the lack of career development opportunities in such a team is known to be a key talent deterrent. In addition, these heavily micro-managed teams containing staff whose ambitions are ignored have been shown by a Franklin Covey study to be much less productive.

Ironically, far from being self-preserving, it’s actually self-defeating for leaders to block protégés. A Harvard study titled ‘Smart Leaders Have Proteges‘ has revealed that leaders who groom protégés are between 11% and 24% more satisfied with their own career advancement than those who have not groomed protégés. The reason for this is that their protégés become part of their network and return the favor in years to come.

You should be able to see why it’s vital that organizations not only value succession planning and career development, but that they spend the time coaching and mentoring their leaders in order that they have the knowledge, the tools and of course the motivation to groom and develop other leaders. 

You may also need to root out insecure leaders and known micro-managers and focus particular attention on encouraging them to break their bad habits and enable them to see they they should not fear their protégés, but rather value them. If treated well those protégés make powerful future allies in their own and your company’s corporate network.

Do Your Leaders Fear Their Protégés?
John Borrowman