Strong General Leader vs. Weak Leader with Industry Experience

I have been confronted with this question a lot lately. Is it be better to have a strong leader from outside an industry or a weaker leader from within an industry? I have an opinion on this that seems to be a bit different from the local markets, but wonder what it is like elsewhere.

In my opinion, it is much better to have a strong general leader from outside the industry rather than have a weak leader with industry experience.

Why?

Project management is project management, regardless of the type of industry that you are going into. There may be a few learning curves early on when creating cost models and other proposals, but those are learned quickly. True leadership, however, is not learned as easily.

I have seen many examples of poor industry leaders destroying projects or departments. At the same time, however, I have seen strong leaders lead projects to great success while knowing very little about the product or industry itself.

What do you think?

7 Replies to “Strong General Leader vs. Weak Leader with Industry Experience”

  1. Hi Jim,

    I agree with you but the the thing is there is a crucial aspect that you have failed to mention, the team. What do you think the team will feel when they get orders from an “outsider” that knows nothing about their industry to do work?

    1. Great question! One thing about leadership, is that it goes beyond “orders” and really gains buy-in from the entire team. The leader relies on the team for information regarding the required tasks. So, in essence, the team is a key part in developing the schedules. Now there are some obvious issues with safety and other items in some industries, but again, if the leader puts good people on his or her team, those items get covered too.

  2. Hi James,

    Good day!

    When talking about “Strong” & “Weak” Leaders, what particular “TRAITS” are we referring to?

    Does it mean strong/weak in character, in command, in commitment?

    1. Great question. Really, I define a strong leader as someone who is strong in each of those characteristics. These three traits that you listed could be considered a “top 3” and a leader that is weak in any of these should be considered a weak leader.

      A leader must have integrity. A strong leader must have unwavering integrity. It is these leaders that inspire employees to be truly great.

      What do you think?

  3. Give me a great leader anyday. Someone with the integrity and the leadership skills to rally a team together. He/She doesn’t need to know my job, that’s my responsibility. Leadership is about taking a group of ordinary people, and getting extraordinary results. I’d rather have a good solid leader, than a specialized weasel anyday.

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