Last Friday we held a joint reception to both graduate our first ever class of Nelson Leadership University (NLU), our accelerated development program for high-potential staff, and to welcome and kickoff our second NLU group. The first group started as a class of 40 selected from 67 applicants, of whom we graduated 24. This year's group consists of 24 participants, six of whom were carried over from NLU 1 since they started late as alternates to the program. That meant that we had only 18 new slots available, so the competition to get in was tougher this year. As a result, I've spent much of this week meeting with both people who made it into the program, and people who didn't get in, to talk about their futures.
Through these discussions a theme has emerged that I hope you'll agree is worth sharing. Namely, before you can be a leader in a work group, you have to understand the profession represented in that group. In other words, you need to be a knowledge leader, or a resource person (i.e. "go to" person) in your field before you can expect to manage or lead that group. So, while we can teach people how to manage others, inspire others, motivate others, discipline others, etc... there is not substitute for having the credibility of knowing your craft when it comes to leading.
So, for those of you in NLU, good for you! You'll learn much this year that we hope will help you along the way. For those of you who didn't, take this year to learn your craft. Nothing makes next year's nomination more compelling than multiple nominations from satisfied internal customers and admiring managers saying that you're the guru who needs developing. Let's be professionals first, experts second, and managers third; then the career ambitions will take care of themselves.