Leadership avoidance is a phenomenon in which individuals, despite having the potential to lead or the opportunity to take charge, intentionally shy away from leadership roles or responsibilities. This behavior can be driven by fear, self-doubt, or a lack of confidence in their abilities, among other factors. When leadership is avoided, it can have a negative impact on the team or organization, leading to reduced productivity, poor decision-making, and diminished morale.
But take heart: leadership avoidance can be overcome. Here’s how.
Developing leaders in your association is critical to ensure a smoothly running organization. Strong leadership – and leaders who are confident in their abilities – are important when it comes to succession planning, growth, and financial stability.
And even though 83% of companies feel that developing leaders is a priority, only 5% have committed to leadership development. As Boomers retire and millennials prepare to take the helm, confidence in leadership matters more than ever.
So how do you overcome leadership avoidance? Here are five strategies for organizations and individuals.
The first step to overcoming leadership avoidance is understanding the root causes behind the reluctance to lead. Individuals should invest time in self-reflection to identify their fears, insecurities, or limiting beliefs that are holding them back.
By becoming more self-aware, potential leaders can acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and work on building the necessary skills and confidence to take on leadership roles.
A reflective practice is not linear but loosely it follows a cycle of:
At any point in the cycle, it’s appropriate to step back to see what’s working and what needs help.
Leadership skills and confidence can be developed over time through continuous learning and practice. Individuals should seek opportunities to learn new leadership techniques, attend workshops or seminars, and gain practical experience by volunteering for leadership roles in various settings.
Associations can help by providing relevant professional development opportunities. By actively seeking growth opportunities and working to improve their skills, potential leaders will become more comfortable in leadership positions and be better prepared to face challenges.
Professional development should be driven by a potential leader’s interests, abilities, and growing edges.
Having a strong professional network is crucial in overcoming leadership avoidance. Actively seek out mentors, peers, and friends who can offer guidance, encouragement, and constructive feedback. This network can provide valuable insights and advice and offer a safe space to discuss fears and concerns related to leadership.
By surrounding themselves with supportive people, potential leaders can gain the confidence to take on leadership roles.
Building a supportive network doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t work without some structure.
Sometimes leadership avoidance stems from the fear of failure or the belief that one must be perfect in a leadership role. To address this, individuals should set realistic goals and expectations for themselves, acknowledging that mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of growth and development. By establishing achievable objectives and learning from mistakes, potential leaders can build the resilience necessary to lead effectively.
Voltaire had it right when he said, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.” It starts with the proper goals.
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Many potential leaders fail from the start because their goals are lofty or unattainable. The key to success when setting goals to overcome leadership avoidance? Set SMART goals.
SMART goals are:
SMART goals set a deadline, but there is support and clear milestones as you move toward them. If you lack confidence in your leadership skills, this type of goal-setting can help.
Adopting a growth mindset is a powerful way to overcome leadership avoidance. This mindset involves viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and understanding that ability can be developed over time. By embracing a growth mindset, potential leaders can become more open to taking risks, learning from failure, and continuously striving for improvement. This attitude fosters a willingness to step into leadership roles and face the challenges that come with them.
Again, a growth mindset embraces the idea that great leaders can be made — they are not born.
Start by identifying your own mindset: Do you think leadership comes naturally, or do you see examples of leaders who developed over time?
Leadership avoidance can be a significant barrier to personal and professional growth as well as the success of a team or organization. By cultivating self-awareness, seeking opportunities for development, establishing a supportive network, setting realistic goals and expectations, and embracing a growth mindset, individuals can overcome this avoidance and unlock their full potential as leaders. As more people step up to take on leadership roles, organizations will benefit from a diverse and skilled pool of leaders, resulting in improved decision-making, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes, paints, and rides horses in Baltimore, MD. She is the author of Healing Where You Are: An Introduction to Urban Foraging.
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