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Developing a high performing technical individual

Part 2: The Leadership Role

(See here for Part 1: The Managerial Role)

Bongi has worked as a Human Resource expert for 8 years. In this time, she has developed many individuals into leadership roles. Bongi finds her role rewarding and exciting. Part of the excitement is that, when professionals from various backgrounds are promoted into leadership roles, Bongi can assist them to become competent and confident. She considers coaching people into leadership positions to be one of her core functions.

Developing a high performing technical individual

Figure 1: Leadership is about creating powerful human currents moving enthusiastically and creatively in the right direction[i]

The key focus areas when moving a technical expert into a leadership position

Bongi is working with the challenging situation of coaching a technical expert who is being developed as a leader. This is one of the most difficult transformations that she has had to tackle. To guide herself through this process, Bongi engaged with Margi, a Business Coach, who has experience in this sphere. This was the input that Margi shared with her:

There are 4 key difficulties when developing a technical expert into an effective leader:

1.   Understanding the Leadership Environments

Margi explained that a hands-on leader can conceptualise a range of environments. This way of thinking can be the opposite to focusing with intent on a particular area which impacts on others. Contemplating numerous environments means that Bongi needs to consider the following:

  • Leadership characteristics, roles, and functions
  • The leader’s personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Leading the business towards a common outcome, inspiring employees to do their best
  • Keeping the team motivated and building people to achieve more and more.
Leader Follower Goals

Figure 2: Leader, Follower, Goals & Major Leadership Theories[ii]

Bongi found this way of looking at things to be particularly interesting since she had never considered so many factors when growing someone into a leadership role. She saw technical experts in one way and people in leadership roles as requiring certain behaviours of their own. When she further considered the leadership environment, she realised how in-depth a leadership role is.

2.   Understanding the Followership Model

Bongi’s focus was always on the person who was being developed, and not really on those who would be led i.e. the followers

Once Margi had explained the followership model to her, Bongi started to take note of the impact that the followership model has on the leadership role.  It makes logical sense that to lead you need to have followers, and to have followers you need to understand how to inspire, motivate and build them. When considering the followers, Bongi used her analysis of the leadership role to then consider:

  • follower demographics, characteristics, and sources of motivation
  • how independently, proactively, and critically- thinking everyone in the team is
  • the team’s dynamics and its ability to debate and to show its vulnerabilities
  • whether each team works as a cohesive unit or as a group of individuals

Bongi was highly stimulated, albeit exhausted, as she continuously became more aware that this was a very time-consuming project. She involved the technical expert in this process so that they could both develop a deeper understanding of who would be most impacted by this leadership role.


Figure 3: One team starts with leadership and thrives on trust [iii]

3.   Human and Leadership Skills

Bongi had already formulated a lengthy list of skills that would be required in a leadership role. Margi added value to this by explaining that skills can be categorised. For ease of application when developing someone for a leadership role, these can be separated into human skills and management skills.

Bongi considered her technical expert and was able to create a table considering how he would fare regarding each of the skills required. Margi recommended that Bongi give her technical expert a rating on each skill from 0 to 10 with 0 being poor and 10 being exceptional. Bongi’s table was as follows:


Human Skills Current Rating Management Skills Current Rating
Assertiveness 5 Building Teams at Operational Level 2
Building Relationships with Superiors 6 Coaching 3
Building Relationships with Peers and Subordinates 2 Creativity Use and Encouragement 5
Change Management 9 Credibility 1
Communication 6 Decision Making 6
Conducting Meetings 2 Delegation 8
Feedback 10 Development Planning 3
Learning From Every Experience 5

Diagnosing Performance Problems in

–        Individuals

–        Teams

–        Organisation







Listening Actively 8 Empathy 2
Managing Disappointment 3 Empowerment 8
Goals Setting 4 Introspection 5
Stress 9 Managing Conflict 7
Technical Competence 10 Negotiation 2
Trust 1 Problem Solving 9
Use of Punishment 5 Empathy 3


With this as a foundation, Bongi was now able to start focusing on the areas that were key to the required leadership role.

4.   Situational Leadership in Context

Bongi was familiar with the situational leadership model. She had used it in numerous coaching exercises when individuals were new to their leadership roles. However, Margi gave her a

new insight when using this tool. The insight is that although someone may appear to be unconsciously competent overall, their position on the model may vary from task to task and certainly in terms of their competencies.

SA Business Coaches defines competencies via the B.E.A.K.S.© model[iv]. This is a great framework to use to assist one in defining what is needed and what should be prioritised. B.E.A.K.S. © was conceptualised by Dr Elana Siew in her book Competence Refined[v] where she speaks about analysing the needs in each of these areas:

    • Behaviour
    • Experience
    • Abilities
    • Knowledge, and
    • Skills

To read more about these 5 areas click here


Situational Leadership Model

The purpose of integrating competencies into the situational leadership model is that it gives an insight into where the technical expert sits on each area of competency required for his leadership role. The tool would be used as follows:

Screenshot 2022 06 10 at 10.38.27

With these 4 areas clearly demarcated, Bongi was able to use Margi’s insight and assistance to clearly define what is required to transform a technical expert into a leader. This transition has an enormous impact on the individual being coached into the leadership role as well as on his or her team, the individuals involved, and the business’s future development.

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