Nothing is more flattering than a promotion. When the executives choose you to be a leader, it sends a powerful message about your skills and knowledge.

But if a promotion is proof that a person knows what they’re doing at work, why is it so hard for so many employees to make the move from individual contributor to leader successfully?

Leaders and Managers Need Soft Skills – But Employers Overlook This

Managers and leaders are often chosen by organizations based on their expertise. However, that means many organizations fail to take into account soft skills like people skills, relationship-building skills, and trust. While it is important for a leader to be technically sound, that isn’t the entire picture. Great leaders also need to have great soft skills.

The stumbling block that prevents so many newly promoted employees from being great leaders is the emotional component of holding a leadership role. When you’re an individual contributor, it was your own performance and goals that mattered. As a leader, what matters is the performance of your team. Leaders can only be as successful as the teams they lead. They need to deeply trust their team members, step back, and let people do their jobs – knowing all along that mistakes can and will happen.

Some new managers are uncomfortable with this lack of control. They long for the good old days when they were individual contributors who could produce results aside from reports on the productivity of others. This dramatic change in responsibilities can make doer types feel especially out of sorts. The spotlight is no longer on them. It’s about the team.

Leadership is about sharing, as odd as that may sound. It’s about knowing that you are only as good as your team and knowing how to develop the team.

In the ’70s and ’80s, managers were often groomed for years prior to taking their new positions – with good reason. This lengthy grooming process allowed the prospective manager to understand that a business is about more than products or processes – it’s about people.

Before You Take That Leadership Role, Ask Yourself Why You Want It

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, nearly 40 percent of new executives fail outright within their first 18 months on the job, and even more of them fail to live up to the expectations of those who hired them.

In my own career, I’ve had to secretly recruit leaders who were about to be ousted. This is tricky business – knowing why they failed, watching them in action, and being unable to stop it.

It would have all been prevented if the soon-to-be-leader had asked themselves one simple question before accepting the role: Why do I want to be the boss?

Is it because you think you can do it better? Is it about control?

Carefully looking at why you want to be a leader prior to entering a leadership position is critical for your success. It takes a brave person to question their motives.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Elizabeth Lions is an executive career coach. You can learn more at

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