For a while, the MBA was the sought-after three-letter suffix for most leaders. A few well-rounded MBAs could lead any business effectively, so the theory went. While the MBA is still popular, specialization in a discipline is now more common within senior leadership. Project Managers, Supply Chain experts, Human Resources professionals, and IT leaders can demonstrate authority with their own certifications.
With so many experts available and organizations becoming leaner, functional areas have become separated. This focus on independent expertise can create silos that reduce common understanding of tactics and strategies. There is professional trust that each specialist is leading capably in their area, but often little redundancy within the leadership team.
Avoid the trap equating specialization with an advanced degree
It would be foolish to use advanced education or certification as the only measuring stick of specialization. Within organizations, tenure and experience can create pockets of institutional knowledge that are far more important to team performance than post-graduate degrees. Consider if these treasure troves of knowledge exist within your team:
- The equipment operator who is the only one who knows how a particular machine operates (or worse – how to repair it)
- The office worker who is a master of a legacy piece of software that – while no longer supported – is critical to your operations.
- The customer care agent who knows the personal needs and motivations of a dozen customers. They have the “magic touch” to address issues effortlessly.
Conversation guides to learn from three types of Specialists
We recommend spending time with one of the specialists within your team in the next week to learn about their area. Let them know you want to learn about them and their expertise. Click the links below for a few conversation starters.