You have “leadership potential”
I worked at a University for 6 years. In my time there, I was always told, at every level, that I had “leadership potential”. I worked hard and was promoted three times.
Each year at my annual performance evaluation, I was told by my boss(es) that I was an excellent employee with “leadership potential”.
When I took my last and final promotion, at the very top of the organization where I was on the senior management team, I had earned my Masters degree in Management on the side and completed several leadership development programs. I was the “go to” person for everything tech, even more than the IT director. I organized and led an initiative that had been on the organization’s “to do” list for 8 years in my first year on the job.
Certain that I had earned a raise, I put together a proposal and asked for it at my next performance evaluation.
I was told – “This is great, but you know we can’t give this to you because of the budget cuts. I can see if I can change your title. You have great leadership potential, and I’d like to see you take on more of those responsibilities…”
There it was again — those words: “Leadership potential”.
I then asked an important question: “I keep hearing that word – potential. How can we turn potential into kinetic?”
He laughed and sort of dodged my question.
Then I realized there was no way out. I was always going to be told I had “potential”. I was never going to get the credit I deserved for the projects I successfully completed or the support I provided. I was always going to be told to “do more” without the opportunity to actually do so.
I was also somewhat annoyed because an opening for an Director position was going to open. By all means, I should have been considered for this role. However, it was announced – without any discussion – that a male in another department was being “groomed” for the position and it was made very clear that he was going to be asked his interest in taking the role.
6 months later, I accepted a position outside of the company where I was the department head in a very large organization responsible for managing a $250,000 annual budget, training and supervising staff, among other responsibilities. My salary was increased by 30%.
After I accepted and told my boss, my supervisor only then asked if they could keep me by offering the Director role to me.
In my new role, I had to “prove myself”, as anyone new would. This was exceptionally difficult, however, in a male dominated industry. Suddenly, the department head meetings – which had traditionally been a time for “the guys to all get together and joke” had a female in it, and the jokes had to be curtailed a bit. Further I had surpassed at least one internal candidate for the position who was extremely resentful, and several of his friends, who were in leadership roles, were in turn resentful to me as well, making work difficult for awhile.
But I was hired along-side a male counterpart, and we both worked well together. Until we didn’t. He saw me as competition and began distancing himself from me.
I got past all of this, though, and continued to work hard and did a great job my first year. It was a great accomplishment. I had learned a lot and did very well.
Then HR came around and offered me an opportunity to be part of the company’s leadership development program. You know, because I had a lot of “leadership potential.”
I was floored.
In this program, I’d be with employees in different departments, none of which are managers, nevermind department heads.
Worse, I found my male counter-part who I’d been hired with was not asked to be in the program, but instead was asked to be a presenter in the program.
I’m now looking for other opportunities.