The Reluctant Leader
As I read the story illustrating concepts in a book called "Ignite, The Four Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders", the phrase "reluctant leader" kept coming to mind. The book does not use those words, although a Google search of reluctant leader will produce several results including articles and at least two books.
The story in Ignite is about two highly skilled individual contributors who find themselves in leadership positions. This is a story near and dear to my heart since my first leadership position happened in a similar way, as many of the leaders I've worked with over the years have experienced as well. Often, when great performance has been "rewarded" with a leadership position, we are reluctant to take on the role of leader. We're reluctant to the point of fear and anxiety, depression and confusion. The work that we loved and were good at is no longer what is expected of us and we're thrown into an entirely different world that can feel like an alien planet.
I have led several leadership programs designed to help new leaders understand that their world has shifted and that they need to adapt to be successful. But as I thought of "reluctant leaders", I wondered if we've missed something in our conversations with new leaders. I'm not sure we've done a great job of selling the leadership role.
In my own development as a leader over the years, I've discovered the joy, the benefits and the rewards of being a leader. As a leader, I've found joy in the growth and learning of others and of accomplishing results with other people, with whom I can celebrate the achievements. As a leader, I've seen the benefits of the learning I've gained from others who are willing to share their insights and expertise. I've also seen the benefits of having engaged and knowledgeable people to tackle a large project. As a leader, I have been rewarded when I see the positive influence I can have on relationships between people, larger results achieved than I could have accomplished on my own, and the impact of my leadership on others' behaviors and perspectives.
Maybe we need to promote the joys, benefits and rewards of leadership, as well as the skills and perspectives needed. Then we might have more people eager for the opportunity of leadership, rather than reluctant.