When we discuss the subject of grooming or developing leaders, the role of a sponsor often comes up.
Some will mention that “it is important to have a sponsor if you have to progress” in a somewhat victimhood tone, implying that without the blessings of a senior, one cannot progress.
In fact, if one were to go back in history, it was the role of the Promoter, business owner or founder to spot talented individuals and “sponsor” their growth and progress. It was seen as an important part of their jobs, and a legitimate part indeed.
Somewhere along the way, such a career sponsorship role earned a bad name – it was seen as playing favourites, being biased and so on.
Enter “talent management” as a process and soon, “spotting and betting on an individual” was seen as a process to be governed by an inanimate council of people. Such councils it was believed were objective, fair and just. Many of us started telling these leaders that “talent belongs to the organization and not the leader”.
But I think we have swung to the other end. Ask individuals a simple question – who in the organization cares about your career and he or she will say, “no one really”.
My plea is that a career sponsor has a legitimate and important role to play. Let us celebrate that, trust our leaders to do it well and bring humanness into the process. Otherwise, our surveys will continue to tell us that managers and leaders don’t care about development.