Reluctant leaders

Leadership is a choice. How might we might we stop discouraging nascent leaders from choosing it?

Leadership isn’t for everyone. But it’s for more people than give themselves credit. And often we’re the ones stopping them from stepping up into leadership.

Leadership can be uncomfortable, scary.

It’s a skill that can be practised and developed and need not be fraught.

Yet there’s discomfort in extending, stretching ourselves. We might have fear of failing, of not being capable, or of what others think. Most prefer comfort over discomfort.

But sometimes that discomfort doesn’t come from our internal stretch or dialogue, it’s from external voices.

It’s the discomfort of others sowing seeds of doubt or worse.

The failure to choose

When someone has leadership potential and doesn’t choose it, it can be others that are the impediment.

When people feel unsure, unready and uncomfortable, they hold themselves back. By choosing not to fail in leadership they fail to choose to lead. And we’re failing them by failing to encourage and support.

They might feel like an imposter* incapable of leading, or are made to feel so.

By our inadvertent comments, questions or looks. The doubt creeps in.

By our strident, destructive critique driving fear and heightening their feeling of being an imposter.

By not actively helping alleviate their discomfort.

Personal resilience varies.

Ask yourself:

How might you be inadvertently contributing to someone’s leadership discomfort?

How might you do better?

Your choice

So what can you do for the person who should lead or you want to step up, and is holding back?

Give them time and space to find their feet and their way to lead. Remember there are many ways to lead. Support them in their way, not your way.

Be an active support. Ask what you can do to support them.

Be their first follower. Reaffirming their choices and position. Supporting their leadership. Easing doubts.

Be constructive with feedback. Help them learn, get better.

They will make mistakes. Help them fix them.

Be more generous. Recognise their good work and tell them. No matter how small.

Ask yourself:

How you might you best support them?

Inclined choice

Choosing to lead is not easy.

Many move slowly up to it.

Don’t make the slope any steeper.


* Imposter Syndrome if you like. Which I don’t. It’s not a syndrome. But the discomfort of feeling like an imposter is real. It’s more like growth pains than a syndrome.


Image by Bryce Carithers

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach, helping the professional culture of the architecture profession. I believe the best way to do this is support leadership development.

I’ve worked in architecture for almost 30 years, and ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I help practices work on their leadership team and strategies. Supporting practices to become more open, fluid, and adaptable. Realising the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of their people.

Interested in hearing I can help? Let’s chat about the leadership development of you or your team.
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