This may seem like a strange statement to some people; but it really is not strange at all to some of those in leadership positions and others who are candidates to fill a leadership position. Many people fear leadership.
You might be thinking that I am going to tell you how ‘leaders’ fear making mistakes or perhaps they fear the accountability of being a leader. There is no doubt that many leaders do have these fears; but I want to talk about those ‘leaders’ who actually fear leadership in the teams they lead.
First of all, this is not true of all leaders. Those who are true leaders realize it is their responsibility to develop the leadership skills of the people in their organizations. Exceptional leaders focus a lot of time helping the members of their team develop leadership skills. Weak leaders go out of their way to suppress the leadership aspirations of the people they lead. They do what they can to keep their people from developing leadership skills because they fear that those people may prove to be more effective leaders than they are. They fear that if they invest in leadership development one or more of those on the team might ultimately replace them. More often than not, these so-called leaders experience these fears because they never received leadership training, or they worked for weak or ineffective leaders and found themselves thrust into a leadership role only because they were the next person in line. A surprisingly high percentage of those promoted into leadership roles have had no leadership training or coaching. They work for organizations that believe the myths about leaders being born. In that regard, they find they have to take on leadership responsibilities with only a vague idea of what is expected of them. When this happens, the new leaders experience the fear of being held accountable or of not meeting expectations.
There are many people who fear taking on leadership responsibility because they have not had leadership training or coaching. They have a fundamental fear of what they do not understand. Perhaps they have watched leaders in the organization fail and fear that they will also fail. More than likely the leaders who failed did so because no one ever took time to teach them how to lead.
It is true that many people who ultimately move into leadership positions have natural abilities which help them be effective leaders. Others become good leaders because they learn from the behaviors of exceptional leaders. But in the same way that professional athletes become the best in their sport through hard work and training, the best leaders become exceptional because of the training they receive, not simply the characteristics they are born with.
How do leaders deal with fear and failure? 15 successful leaders discuss the keys to their success, and I share my journey to $250 million in service revenue.
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Very few organizations are fortunate enough to have a barn full of “natural” leaders waiting to be promoted. As a result, they are forced to thrust people without natural gifts into leadership positions. More often than not these are field promotions because a previous leader was lost unexpectedly, or a need is created due to unexpected circumstances.
Given this, it seems odd to me that organizations refuse to invest even a little bit of time helping their people prepare for the leadership roles they may ultimately be forced into. And told to sink or swim.
To be continued…