top of page


Updated: Apr 25

Managing People

More so than ever, intellectual capital has rightfully become a source of competitive advantage for many organizations. It resides in employees at multiple levels within the organizations. True leaders unlock and harness the human potential to create avenues of sustainable differentiation for the organizations.

Employees, in their pursuit of assuming significant roles, must navigate through different leadership passages[1]. Transition from one level to the next corresponds to the natural evolution of the work hierarchy. Each level mandates employees to demonstrate specific leadership competencies for them to move to the next level. It is advisable that employees may go through a assessment centre or development centre while making a transition to the subsequent leadership level. Furthermore, it is also recommended that transitions may be supported with the creation of individual develop plans for selected employees.

At Leadership Level-1, employees spend most of their time as individual contributors. They are primarily responsible for managing their own work (specific tasks assigned to them). At this level the employees demonstrate professional/technical excellence and great personal discipline. By broadening their individual skills employees make increased contributions and are considered promotable to the next level. Key competencies[2] required at this level include execution orientation, setting well defined and achievable personal goals, completing assignments in a timely manner, demonstrating ability to take initiative and working with minimal supervision.

At Leadership Level-2, employees spend most of their time managing others. This is the first time they have to focus on not only completing their job adequately, but also enabling others perform their job effectively. At this level the focus shifts from “doing the job” to “getting the job done”. Many employees fall in the trap of continuing doing the work themselves and eventually end up competing with their own subordinates. Employees who produce consistent results through the team are considered for promotion to the next level. Key competencies2 required at this stage include developing self and others, team leadership, defining and assigning work and employee empowerment and planning & organizing.

At Leadership Level-3, employees spend most of their time managing the function. They are primarily responsible for creating a functional strategy (complementing the business strategy) by integrating parts of sub-functional elements. At this level, people start looking at the big picture and start appreciating the differences and synergies among various sub-functions. They need to avoid the trap of spending disproportionate time on the sub-functions with which they were earlier associated. Key competencies2 required at this stage include strategic orientation, change leadership, awareness/information orientation, collaboration and managing stakeholders.

At Leadership Level-4, employees spend most of their time managing a specific business segment or an enterprise. This is a significant transition in their careers as they become highly visible and attain significant autonomy. At this level their primary responsibility is to formulate and execute the business strategy for their respective business segment. Also it is worthwhile to note that the number of stakeholders (internal and external) to manage increases manifold at this level. Furthermore an employee at this level needs to be equally sensitive to the softer aspects of the organization such as the culture. Many employees fall in the trap of analyzing situations from the functional lens. This shortsighted view deters comprehensive and fair evaluation of an issue. Key competencies2 required at this level include strategic orientation, influencing stakeholders, leading change and people development.

It is noteworthy that the number of leadership levels may be more or less than what is mentioned above depending on the specific context of the organization. For instance many large organizations have group managers or category managers between leadership level-3 & level-4. Competency frameworks for such variations in levels may be adjusted accordingly.

An employee’s transition to the subsequent level is not an ad-hoc event, but a part of structured leadership development process within the organization. Key objective of the process is to ensure extraordinary employee performance at all levels. To start with, the preliminary focus of leadership development is to help maximize employee performance in the current role. For this an employee may go through multiple developmental initiatives. In the event of an employee performing consistently well (for at least 2-3 years) against the specified performance standards, she may be considered for promotion to the next level. Such employees may be designated to Assessment/Development Centers (AC/DC) for detailed leadership competency profiling. The outcome of AC/DC may be interpreted to determine the readiness of an employee to take on the subsequent leadership role. “Individual Development Plans” are used to track and monitor the leadership development of employees over a definite time frame. Many organizations part delegate the work of the next higher level to the shortlisted employees so as to assess their readiness for the higher role.

This illustrates readiness testing of employees for the higher roles by part delegating the work of the next level. The figure also highlights the competencies required at each leadership level.

Thus, in a nutshell, employees need to transition various leadership levels by demonstrating appropriate leadership competencies at each level. Organization, at its end, needs to institutionalize an effective leadership development process and harmonize the same with other people policies. Finally, a congenial organizational culture is required to help thrive leadership all multiple levels within the organization.


Charan, R., Drotter, S. and Noel, J. (2001), The Leadership Pipeline, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Carter L., Goldsmith M. and Ulrich D. (2005), Best Practices in Leadership Development and Organization Change, Pfeiffer, pp. 439-454.

Conger, J. and Fulmer, R. (2003), “Developing your leadership pipeline”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 81 No. 12, pp. 76-90.

Collins, D. and Holton, E. (2004), “The effectiveness of managerial leadership development programs: a meta-analysis of studies from 1982-2001”, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 217-48.

Groves K. (2007), Integrating leadership development and succession planning best practices, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 239-260

Kilian, C.M., Hukai, D. and McCarty, C.E. (2005), “Building diversity in the pipeline to corporate leadership”, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 155-68.

Rothwell, W. (2002), “Putting success into your succession planning”, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 23 No. 3, p. 32.

Williams M. (2005), Leadership for Leaders, Thorogood Publishing Limited, pp.85-109

[1] Charan, Ram, Drotter, Stephen, Noel James (2001) The Leadership Pipeline: How to build the Leadership powered company, Jossey Bass, CA

1 view0 comments


bottom of page