(1 minute read)

When the Captain of a football team leads the players on to the field to the cheers of thousands of adoring fans, leadership can seem quite an admirable role.

Who wouldn’t love the adulation and attention of the masses, the media attention, the sponsored events, and photo-shoots that go with this exulted position?

It turns out, there are many who’d prefer not to have the title and responsibilities of ‘leader.’

So, what is it that can make leadership so unattractive – so undesirable?

The Reluctant Leader

Teams and organisations worldwide are in a state of ‘leadership deficit’, where they don’t have the number (or calibre) of leaders they require to achieve the desired goals for the quarter/year ahead.

The irony of this, is that there are often individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for a leadership position, yet these same people may not see themselves as a leader and will consciously choose not to lead. They’ll avoid manager-type roles and may steer clear of leading a team on projects or large initiatives. 

These competent – and often ideal leadership candidates – are sometimes referred to as ‘Reluctant Leaders’.

Why are they reluctant?

  • Uncertainty or Self-Doubt: Often identified as Imposter Syndrome, they may feel unqualified for the role, or that there is someone more suited to the position or responsibilities.
  • Routine/Comfort Zone: Many competent individuals/workers understand where their strengths are, and often want to stay there.
  • Responsibility or Blame: If individuals have observed existing or previous leaders receiving a dressing-down, or reprimand for underperformance of their team, this can look very undesirable to potential candidates. (The higher you climb, the bigger the fall)

How can we decrease the reluctance?

  • Create Psychological Safety: Knowing that they have the support of management (and colleagues) even in the face of making errors, can appease angst or anxiety from potential mistakes.
  • Support, Support, Support: Knowing that colleagues and management have-their-back, removes some of the distaste of leadership responsibilities and consequences.
  • Provide positive role models: You can’t be what you can’t see”, is a phrase that reminds us that prospective leaders need to see other leaders who are achieving desired results, while effectively managing risk and challenges – and enjoying the journey.

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