In their own words: how technical experts describe their K-Leader experience

It had been a complete mystery to most as to why they had been ‘sent’ on a leadership program. But on completion of the K-Leader program - specifically designed to reach, empower and motivate the leadership of highly valuable subject matter experts – these much overlooked professionals enthusiastically shared some very important insights. BY ALISTAIR GORDON


From HFL’s development experiences with a cohort of over 200 senior technical experts over the past 18 months, I hope to encourage you to unlock the vast leadership potential held within the ranks of your organisation’s subject matter professionals.


By helping them convert themselves from experts - across legal, finance, R&D, purchasing, business analysis, HR, risk, planning, marketing, geology, actuarial - into leaders, the payback for both your people and your organisation can be resounding.


These trusted advisors to the business and custodians of your intellectual property need to be provided with the leadership skills to give them the power to improve the organisation’s effectiveness - through their deep understanding of today’s top priorities such as Big Data to better understand customers, driving operational excellence, and reducing risks and costs.


If you show them a clearly defined, credible development path, they can use their capacity to focus and their smarts to quickly turn a pathway into a highway. And, once properly up-skilled and thinking holistically, they’ll be empowered and motivated to turn nuggets of gold into mountains of gold.


Technical experts often have a reputation for being harsh in their criticism of others, and cynical in approach, of not being commercially savvy, or good at sharing their knowledge. For us to turn technical experts into leaders, development initiatives need to help eradicate the destructive behaviours and build greater positive capabilities.


Most technical experts will tell you there exists a very clear ‘technical ceiling’ - in IT departments, you hear this described as the ‘Silicon ceiling’ - and a No Go Zone for career progression and corporate involvement. Which is in stark contrast to the highly sophisticated infrastructure in place for developing people leaders, including a well established pipeline and defined behavioural models.


Our thesis is that technical experts act the way they do because we’ve taught them to do so, and specifically, we haven’t taught them to act any other way because why would technical experts need leadership skills?


But what happens if you expose subject matter experts to leadership programs specifically designed for them?


From the audio, you really get a feel for the impact the K-Leader experience can have on your valuable technical specialists, and their responses to the investment in their development.




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