5 signs of a reluctant leader and what to do about it

Reluctant leader

Posted on 11 Dec 2019

Reluctant leaders are everywhere and in every industry. They are good operators who have demonstrated leadership potential by consistently performing well at lower levels in a business, so it is automatically assumed that this fact alone will guarantee their success in a more senior leadership role.

The reality is that, unless appropriate development interventions are put in place each time an individual reaches a critical career crossroads, they will simply continue to do what made them good in the first place instead of taking on new ways of managing and leading, and leaving the old ways behind.

5 tell-tale signs of a reluctant leader:

Failure to build a strong team

A reluctant leader very often works with their direct reports as individuals as opposed to a cohesive team. This prevents the flow of information between team members and other stakeholders and inhibits innovation.

Difficulty delegating

As people move up the hierarchy the inability to delegate has an increasingly negative effect and can almost bring the business to a standstill because decisions are delayed. Their direct reports may become frustrated and angry as their decision-making accountability and sense of personal achievement are reduced.

Choosing clones over contributors

Leaders are responsible for selecting the next generation of talent for the business. Reluctant leaders will probably lack confidence themselves and have received no training in recruitment and selection. As a consequence, they may reject strong candidates who they might feel threatened by in favour of people who are like themselves.

Poor performance management

Look for someone who gives poor or little feedback to his team, doesn’t coach them to develop in their roles and who fails to provide clear direction, so their people are unsure of their goals. An unwillingness to address underperformance out of fear of having a difficult conversation is another sure sign of a poor leader.

Single-minded focus on getting the work done

This individual doesn’t recognise their role as a people manager and coach. They remain very operational and do not devote time to developing talent within their team. Their eyes are firmly fixed on the task in hand, and they do not raise their heads to take in the bigger picture strategic or cultural issues.

Developing a leadership pipeline

The supply of ready-made leaders is limited and external recruitment is an expensive option, which is not without risks. It makes sense, then, to build effective leadership at all levels by identifying high-potential individuals early on, investing in their development by involving them in project work, giving them quality feedback and coaching them to successfully transition to leadership positions when the time is right.

Choosing a new leader in the workplace? Get in touch and we will help you smooth out the process!

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