During my forty years of consulting, I have attended many meetings where the topic was who should be promoted to fill a vacant position.

I’ve noticed that there is a pattern governing who might get promoted and who might get rejected for promotion.

A person often became a candidate for promotion or hiring based on his or her performance, or professional preparation and expertise; but that, in itself, did not secure them the position.

The question that usually determined whether candidate got the position was: Will his new subordinates accept him as a leader?

The same principles apply to whom to hire to fill a leadership position.

I am currently consulting to a large real estate company. Because of the credit crisis, they are in dire need of a first-class CFO.

One of the candidates had all the elements of a great resume: a degree from a leading business school; the right work experience, having worked for an even larger real estate development company; the right age and was willing to work for the salary my client was willing to pay. Yet he was not hired.

What was the problem?

He was not hired because my client heard through the rumor mill that the guy was arrogant, fought with his colleagues, was not a team player, etc.

None of this information is available in a resume. None of this will come up in an interview, either. Even if a previous employer is called for references, this information will not be provided because the candidate can sue the employer for defamation.

One has to find the inside information somehow.

What about promotion from within? Are there any other factors beyond leadership capability?

Yes there are.

People are like trucks. When a truck gets overloaded with weight it starts to tremble; it does not move forward, just shakes in place.

When a person is working beyond his capability he gets very nervous, easily upset, and has a short temper, as if saying, “I cannot take anymore.”

A person working within his capability has a smile on his face and has a good sense of humor, as if saying, “You can put more responsibility on me.”

Watch a candidate for a promotion. If she is nervous and easily upset, leave her where she is. She is not ready for promotion.

Another barrier for getting promoted is that the person is indispensable in his present position. Promoting him will create a problem; there is no one to fill the old shoes.

So, if you want to get promoted what should you do?

Never stop learning, so your qualifications never became obsolete. Always get training beyond what your present task calls for.

Next, never take on more than you can handle. Being a nice guy and sacrificing yourself for the sake of the company will not be rewarded with a promotion. You might get a one-time cash bonus, but in the long run you will be stymied.

Finally, make yourself dispensable. This might seem like the wrong strategy, because you are making yourself replaceable. But you can’t be promoted unless someone can take your current place.

If you have developed beyond your present job, if your attitude is constructive and you appear positive and exciting, and if someone can fill your old shoes, you are the prime candidate for the promotion you have been coveting for.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes