Is Leadership Different in Big to Small Companies?

Do you work in a large, medium or small organisation? Do your leaders play small or big?

What I am noticing as I work with various sized companies is that leadership lessons apply no matter the size of the organisation. The biggest difference is that sometimes leaders in smaller companies use their size as an excuse for avoiding leadership development, and they pay the price by playing small. While in medium-large organisations they go through phases where they develop upcoming leaders, yet they also go for long periods where they let that slip. These companies are also playing small.

I typically work with managers who come from a technical background, and one key step in their leadership development is to shift their focus. First is to shift from a task focus to a people focus; from being tactical to being strategic; from being an implementer to being an influencer. The result is to move them from being technically competent but a follower, to being confident as a leader in their organisation.

Take company XYZ as an example. When I first met them, they were a small company, run by the managing director. The MD worked so hard scheduling work for his field crews, purchasing equipment, approving invoices, reporting to, and meeting with clients, preparing tender applications, and securing ongoing contracts of work, that he had little time for his team. As the company grew to double that size, he was able to hire project managers to take on some of that load, but the teams still reported to him, and he was still too stretched to focus on his team.

Eventually the organisation grew to a size where the MD hired a general manager who was able to balance the task focus of the MD. By focusing on the needs of his teams, and getting the right people in the right place, injury and incident rates dropped and performance went up.

Leadership is a learned skill, and when our managers are caught up fighting fires every day that leaves little time for them to develop into the leaders we need them to be. Are your managers implementers or influencers?