Encouraging Reluctant Leaders

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. However, that does not mean it is only limited to a few brave souls born with the ability. Anyone can learn to lead. However, it is important to recognize that some potential leaders are reluctant to take on the responsibility. Yet with the right encouragement and situation they will step up to the challenge.

In an article from the Harvard Business Review titled Why Capable People are Reluctant to Lead, authors Chen Zhang, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Susan J. Ashford,and D. Scott DeRue identify three reasons why some people avoid leadership roles. The first has to do with Interpersonal Risk.

Interpersonal Risk: The first concern people mentioned over and over again was that acts of leadership might hurt their relationships with their colleagues. For example, when asked why they were hesitant to step up to lead, one respondent explained that “sometimes you don’t want to risk that friendship and hurt other people’s feelings.” Another said they were afraid that if they stepped up, other people could “start to dislike you and talk about you behind your back.” The fear of leadership harming interpersonal relationships was one of the most consistent themes we found throughout our interviews and surveys.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

The authors proceed to share strategies designed to overcome the concerns, such as this one for risk sensitive colleagues.

Go the extra mile to support your more risk-sensitive colleagues. Our interviews suggest that employees who are earlier in their careers, newer to their teams, and/or of lower rank in the organization’s structure may be particularly sensitive to leadership risks. In addition, prior research has shown that minority gender or ethnic groups are also likely to be more risk-sensitive in many professional leadership contexts. To encourage these employees to push past the additional challenges they face, managers can proactively reach out to them when opportunities arise, explicitly seek their input in key meetings and projects, and publicly praise their leadership contributions in front of senior colleagues.

Read the rest of the article at the Harvard Business Review.

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