Humankind is built to operate in hierarchies like for example dogs. Even modern organizations where they claim to be “flat” when a team or individual cannot make a final decision, there is always a need of a leader to make one and take the responsibility of it. It’s in our DNA, we cannot fight it.
Accepted that we have to operate in hierarchies, in the corporate world we have introduced ranks, like in the military in order to function. The ranks or titles can be different depending on the industry, country, and organization. Regardless, if you view them from a high level, they represent similar concepts. So there you go, you have managers, directors, VPs, presidents, etc. Since organizations are hierarchical like trees with different ramifications, i.e. departments and teams, a professional representing a title should be more or less on an equivalent level of quality than another one in a different team. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Not for smaller companies, but in large organizations, with global reach, different departments and managers apply their own way to weigh value for promotions. Top leaders don’t have an issue to promote top talents, but weaker leaders promote only weaker people otherwise they would become a threat to themselves. While one team may result in a clean and fair division of title with deserved medals, in another, it may be polluted with people with high titles and no value.
The first issue you encounter is that good talent sees this unbalance situation and start to become disappointed about it: why is that a person in another team has a higher title (and probably compensation)? Why the more responsibility or deliverables? simply, why?
Another issue is that having many people with high ranks dilute the benefits that come with that title. If the benefits associated are a significant investment for the company, leaders may decide to cancel them: they were meant for around twenty people, but now we have hundreds of them …. this costs too much. This leads to people wanting to jump to higher levels diluting that one too. In the military, there is no dilution: promotions are deserved, medals are earned and a rank represents a status you have achieved.
Finally, the most frustrating is that you have to sit in important meetings with co-peers or higher ranked colleagues who are totally unknowledgeable but they come with the rank: you have to keep explaining why certain things need to be done, almost justify yourself all the time, simply because they don’t get it. And most ugly, politics starts to kick in…
My recommendations to work yourself through this situation:
- First of all, in your own team, if you are a leader, make sure that there are a fair balance and division of titles;
- Each individual has his / her own carrier path, sometimes we got lucky to be promoted sooner than others; in any case, keep comparing to others will only frustrate you daily. Just look for your own career path with your mentor and you will get there;
- True leadership is not represented by titles, number of people you manage, etc. A small dog can lead a big dog as well. It’s about who you are, what you can do, the energy you have and how you utilize it with your talents. The rest is just a big facade.