recognizedI was born and raised in South Georgia and I love southern cuisine like rutabagas and sweet potatoes.  You are probably wondering what does this have to do with leadership. Well, it was inspired from by a conversation with one of my clients.  In a touch base call, I asked, “how are things going with your Program Lead.”  He responded, “He is great with the staff, and client relations but just not the visionary I need.” I responded, “Well, you can’t turn a rutabaga into a sweet potato pie.” and the rest is history.

If you aren’t familiar with the rutabaga what you need to know is, it’s similar to a turnip root. In my opinion, although it can be bitter, it’s delicious. Most importantly the rutabaga is not suitable for making sweet potato pie. It’s just not equipped for that!

Here comes the lesson.

We do this in our organizations; constantly trying to turn rutabagas into sweet potato pies. We invest, we train, and we are continually frustrated. Understand this, some people are equipped with a certain skill level and they operate in that level and can perform extremely well. Transitioning them beyond that can result in two things; they adapt and continue to excel or they fail miserably.

Leadership is not about position nor is it a one size fits all approach. Assumptions are made regarding positions instead of true individual skill and ability. Before you expand a person’s responsibilities or job description you must honestly assess their ability to perform at the level (not the position) you need. Remember performing well in one area does not automatically mean high performance in another area IF the skills are not in alignment.

We want visionaries, leaders, and strategist but we do not want to set our current staff up for failure. Sometimes an opportunity to expand knowledge, skills, and experiences is all that’s needed. However, be wise and know that you can’t turn a rutabaga into sweet potato pie. Be mindful of who your rutabagas are and your sweet potatoes?

Understand the level of ability, effort and influence of each person on your team. Examine their strengths and leverage those strengths; then decide if you want to invest in making that person stronger. A title and a current skill set alone does not  make a leader nor does it mean that they can accomplish all that is needed in your organization.

Here are 6 questions to ask before deciding to invest in a current staff member or recruit from the outside.

1. Are there sweet potatoes among us? Know who is on your team and the skills they bring. Review their resumes again. When we hire people we are only looking at what we need at that time. Go back and look for transitional skills. It’s important to know who you have in your organization.

2. Is there a commitment to the organization? Too many times I’ve seen organizations invest in people who are “just passing through”. You must have an idea of their level of commitment.

3. Do you see potential in the person to increase their level of influence and skill with the proper guidance?

4. Do they possess a willingness to learn and grow beyond current skill set?

5. Will they be committed to the growth/change process? Sometimes we want to grow people who do not want to grow themselves.

6. Are you willing to provide guidance and support after you’ve invested in a coaching or professional development program?

Think on these nuggets, your needs and who you have in your organization. We would love to help you grow through our personal and professional growth programs. We can help you assess your needs, your rutabagas and your sweet potatoes! Ask about our transformational programs and the 360 Assessment. Let’s connect, follow us @drtaunyaalowe; like us or connect with us on


  Taunya A. Lowe, Ph.D. is the CEO of a human services and leadership development consulting firm located in Lawrenceville, GA.  Dr. Lowe is a speaker, trainer, strategist, success coach, professor, entrepreneur; and the Siegel Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Character 2013 Phenomenal Woman.  Trained by John Maxwell and his team, she is a skilled change agent with a focus on developing people and organizations. She enjoys combining her photography and writing to motivate, inspire and lead people and organizations toward transformation.  Contact Dr. Lowe, by visiting or email her or call her office (855) 873-4445.