There are books, courses, certifications and coaches who “teach,” encourage and even insist that everyone can be a leader. Has anyone considered that maybe not everyone wants to be one?
I respectfully disagree with the notion that everyone can, or must, seek leadership roles. However, at the risk of contradicting myself, I also believe that there may be specific circumstances when a non-leader could temporarily step up into a leadership role. Especially when there’s an extraordinary or personal interest at stake.
Scenario 1: If I’ve been sitting in line for two nights waiting for the “smartphone store” to open, and some jerk tries to cut in front of me, I will take charge and summon up my leadership voice to tell them to step back.
Scenario 2: In the workplace, I have a specific skill that no one else has and management calls on me to perform a task. My knowledge of this skill gives me enough confidence to take charge of the job.Not every employee wants to be a #leader. So respect their choices and examine your #WorkCulture to ensure it isn’t undermining #PotentialLeaders. Click To Tweet
Why Your Employees Won’t Embrace a Leadership role
While “I don’t want a leadership role” is a valid explanation for not seeking or accepting opportunities, here are a few other possible reasons employees seem to lack leadership skills:
1. They don’t know what being a leader looks like.
Management, including their immediate supervisor, may lack the skills themselves. They don’t know how to develop workplace relationships; they are never around; and they never come through for their employees. This could make the idea of pursuing a position of leadership unappealing.
2. Feedback is rare.
Employees never receive criticism or compliments from their leaders. Regular feedback can influence professional behavior and creativity, and act as an incentive to meet department goals. It can also promote an atmosphere of constructive communication and learning.
3. Opportunity for training is not available.
Some companies don’t have the means to offer free education or certification programs. But they can provide incentives to encourage their employees to continue to improve and develop new leadership skills.
4. Satisfied with the status quo.
Some people are impossibly bored with everything they do. They have their own agenda or are just killing time until something better comes along. Investing themselves in learning and taking on more responsibilities is of no interest.
5. They have personal problems.
Because not all employees air their dirty laundry at work, management may not understand why someone really turned down a leadership role. Sometimes a worker with difficult personal circumstances can only handle a low-key position. Adding responsibilities could mean failure professionally and personally.
6. Not the right character.
Maybe they’re self-aware enough to know that if they took on a leadership role their moody, glass-half-empty, unreliable, rude, apathetic and everyone-is-against-me personality would bring destructive results.
7. They’re relationship challenged.
If an employee is a loner, uncomfortable interacting with coworkers outside their department, blends in at meetings, and avoids attending company events, that can indicate a lack of “soft skills.” While they can develop these skills, some people prefer to live in a bubble.
8. Don’t want to alienate friends.
Work friends can make your day more pleasant and be a powerful incentive to stay at a job you dislike. Becoming a colleague’s boss would likely change the dynamic of that relationship, forcing a bit of distance and perhaps ruining the “sharing all” bond you once had.
9. Leadership positions seem unattainable or undesirable.
Have the leadership positions been occupied by the same individuals for generations? Are the people in these roles family members or longtime friends? Is there a lack of diversity that makes you wonder how well you would fit in the leadership team? If leadership opportunities are limited, unappealing or non-existent, employees are not going to invest the time in pursuing them.
Other Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Qualities
When we talk about “leadership,” we tend to focus on obvious qualities and titles. But there are many employees who exemplify “leadership” in other ways, but are too humble to flaunt it. Leadership is matter of personal integrity. Also:
- Leadership is completing an assigned task well and on time.
- Leadership is showing up for work punctually, and doing overtime when necessary.
- Leadership is avoiding gossip.
- Leadership is getting along with coworkers.
- Leadership is being civil to everyone.
- Leadership is telling the truth.
- Leadership is behaving professionally, even when things don’t go well.
Different employees are in different stages of their career. They may have goals that don’t align with everyone else’s. Of course, offer them opportunities, but stop imposing leadership roles if that’s not what they want right now. Respect their choices.
Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, Workplace Civility, Soft Skills, Business Etiquette Expert, Media Source and author of Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.
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