As I pointed out here, in facing scale ups, there are some core challenges, structural and cultural, that have to be addressed. Among these us the three-pronged challenge of integration. That is, how does one maintain an integrated organizational identity after a merger or significant scale up? Second, how do you assure that activities continue to be coordinated after such an event? Finally, how do you make sure that there the organization is able to respond with agility to internal and external customers.

In the final analysis, these challenges cannot be met by simply by organizational design methodology. That is, making structural changes alone isn't the solution, but the challenges, have to be addressed by the core leaders. By "core leaders" we mean those individuals who are directly responsible for the business activities. These leaders, with direct business responsibility, are on the firing line.

In a scale up or merger situation, almost overnight they will have a greater number of people reporting to them; they will have to deal with a changing organizational culture; they will have to stay on top of shifting and changing customer demands; they will have to deal with integrating the core technology in assuring that all organization processes operate across turf and departments with little or no duplication.

Scale ups, in many ways, transform all these front-line leaders high potentials. The bar is raised, and they will have to be accountable, not for what they've done in the past but for what they will do in the future. They are the future of the organization.

In this sense, you have to consider some of the core competencies that high potentials in a scale-up situation have to address. These competencies are not the traditional leadership cliches. They are not about exercising self-awareness or and practicing authenticity, or getting in touch with one's personality, but they are the core competencies necessary for execution under complex conditions and uncertainty.

First, high-potential leaders in a scale-up environment need to know how to be contextually aware. As their core business grows, they need to know how to respond to new customers, clients and technological trends while maintaining existing relationships. High-potential leaders will be required to navigate increasing complex environments and will have to learn how to translate new organizational strategies into concrete tactics.

But being able to decipher a changing organizational culture is simply the first step. High potentials managing a scale-up challenge need to be equipped with micro-behavioral skills to lead teams that are often sprawling. To do this they need to develop political awareness and the ability to build coalitions of support, justify initiatives, collaborate across silos, and overcome resistance. These are essential skills to hone as the organization expands, enters new markets, and welcomes new stakeholders.

Lastly, high-potential leaders addressing a new set of scale-up challenges must know how to sustain momentum and lead with managerial awareness. These high potential leaders now have to keep the ball rolling through turf battles and across locations. They much coach, engage, and enhance more people while resolving an increasing number of conflicts. If that weren't enough, they must motivate and offer feedback while trying to pivot with agility to respond to setbacks and strategic organizational shifts.

Scaling up presents an organization with many opportunities, but just as many challenges. The front-line managers in a scale-up organization will instantly take on more responsibility and, as a result, will be capable of great things. But there is also a risk of burnout. That is why it is incumbent for an organization planning to scale up to also scale up their leadership training and development. If their leaders are given more responsibility, they should also be given the requisite skills of leadership. Leaders who must handle scale up challenges should learn how to be contextually, politically, and managerially aware so they can successfully target new clients, build solid coalitions, and engage for long term results.

Published on: Nov 2, 2015
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