Some people are change agents at heart. They have an eye to the future and they like to change and evolve the business. Others are more focused on running the business. This means they focus on improving the systems and processes to improve execution and results around the current business. They are complimentary. One isn’t better than the other, but sometimes the business needs more influence from one than the other. Another way of viewing this is a metaphor: CEO (Chief Executive Officer) who change the business vs. COO (Chief Operating Officer) who runs the business.
For high potential leaders, at different times in their careers, they are asked to wear each hat a multitude of times. This is ideal for their development and helps them to become very well rounded in both the depth of their functional knowledge as well as the breadth of their organizational knowledge. Where issues tend to arise is when they are asked to wear both hats at the same time. The roles are complimentary, but do not lend to being executed simultaneously by one person effectively.
Think of a cardiologist’s office. Would you expect a cardiologist to also physically submit the paperwork to the insurance companies? My guess would be “no”. The cardiologist (CEO in this case) is focusing on staying an expert on the latest research and techniques to not only save lives, but to also make his/her practice world-class. The Director of Operations (COO in this case) is focusing on ensuring the systems and operations of the practice runs smoothly so that the customer experience is ideal.
For high potentials, the trick is to understand your current role and execute it flawlessly. Trying to do both at the same time are too much and will not allow one to reach their full potential. So, ask yourself, which role am I in now? And what can I do to ensure I am maximizing by ability to be successful?