Tue • Aug 13th, 2013 • by Tom Nees • Comments 1
A leader I know and admire contacted me recently to talk about his possible career change to a new assignment in a field for which he has no background.
In spite of his apprehension I assured him that he was highly qualified and would be well received if this opportunity would come his way.
And I know of several leader friends who have recently been elected or appointed to positions without experience for their new assignments.
I was reminded of this in a USA Today article about Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors, “You don’t have to be a ‘car guy’ to lead GM.”
With no experience in the automobile industry, Akerson was elected in 2010 as the CEO of General Motors with the challenge of leading GM out of bankruptcy. Since then GM has earned $25 billion before taxes and interest – more than any comparable period in GM’s history. He’s done very well in spite of, or perhaps because of not being a “car guy.”
Akerson, a Naval Academy graduate with a career leading telecommunications and technical companies as well as an investment firm, says that he brought the management and leadership lessons learned in these assignments with him.
“Fundamentally, no kidding, it’s all about leadership. I don’t think you have to be a subject-matter expert,” he said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Complex organizations have many common challenges.”
“Leadership is transferable,” says Alan Merten, president emeritus of George Mason University, author and expert on leadership and management. Akerson is “a good example of someone who took his knowledge and leadership skills with him wherever he went,” according to Merten.
There are a few essential lessons to be learned from transferable leadership -
In our mobile, changing society it is likely that in their lifetimes leaders today will have many positions or assignments.
They should be confident that their acquired leadership skills will follow them and serve them well wherever their career, opportunities or interests take them.