After Tim Davie was named acting director-general of the BBC, there was some grumbling about his lack of a journalistic background. Meanwhile, MEP Sharon Bowles has said not being an economist made her a good candidate for Bank of England governor. Which matters more – qualifications or experience?
As I would not want to be operated on by an unqualified surgeon, I would also not want to be led by a chief executive who lacked the formative experience that leaders need to become agile, strategic, self-aware and wise.
It would be wrong, though, to think that direct experience is all that matters. The greatest development comes when you give talented people a “coat that is one size too big”. Individuals who are cosseted in one environment and in one discipline will not confront the spread of challenges required to become strong leaders. But if they have diverse experiences, they will be well-placed to lead others, even without direct experience of the sector.
Lesley Uren is a talent management expert at PA Consulting Group
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