Stop creating reluctant leaders

Many people find themselves thrust into situations where they are expected to provide leadership to others. Too often, this is accompanied by little (if any) relevant training on how to actually be a leader, and the problem is this shows very quickly – often with disastrous consequences – when things start to go wrong!

Managers follow processes and people generally conform and comply with these requirements. When this happens it typically reflects well on the individual with the result that they become known as a “good manager”. Guess what happens next … because they are a good manager they are often “rewarded” for their efforts by being moved into a leadership role. I am really not trying to be provocative but have to say this is the most stupid thing a business can do if they want to retain and motivate their talented people! I have seen this situation happen time and time again in my client organisations and the problem is that, by the time they realise their mistake, it is generally too late to do anything about the individual’s position in the company, and there are residual issues they are left to deal with. I spend most of my time working with “leaders” who are good “managers” that have been promoted into positions that expose their reluctance and inability to lead – this can be frustrating, demotivating and highly destructive for an individual who has performed well in the past and now feels inadequate and inept. At this point, the problems are becoming apparent and the senior staff (or more often the HR department) have to bring in someone like me to “solve their problem”, i.e. the problem that they created in the first place by their inappropriate succession and planning procedures.

Are you a reluctant leader?
If so – don’t panic – but you do have a choice to make and the sooner you do it the better for everyone concerned, including you! You can either embrace your new identity and commit to learning to be the best leader you can be … or … accept that you are a good manager and gracefully return to what you do well. The latter option may sound negative and defeatist to some people but, from my experience of working with many reluctant leaders in global organisations, the hallmark of true self-leadership is recognising when you need to make a choice and following through with the actions that will create the best outcome for everyone concerned.

Message for HR Departments!
Please remember there is a huge difference between being a manager and being a leader – you need to think and behave differently and this takes time to understand and learn. In today’s high pressure workplaces, leaders need to be experts in emotional intelligence, practitioners in the art of persuasion and masters of motivation. Unfortunately, too many leaders have been “put” into the position of being a leader rather than aspiring and choosing to follow this path … hence they became reluctant leaders. In the long term this can only harm their confidence, motivation and mental state and will undoubtedly affect their performance in the workplace. Why would you want to do this to your experienced and talented staff? Please take heed and re-evaluate your succession planning and talent management programmes. Of course, you could always consider using Challenge Choice Change to develop your reluctant leaders …