I recently met a gifted leader in an organization I am working with. She possesses all the skills, knowledge and wisdom to lead her team to extraordinary heights. She is authentic and uses her core values and beliefs to guide all her decisions and actions. She doesn’t let others with different standards impact how she completes her work. She stands up for what she feels is important to her and the organization and stands out because there is a lack of transparency all around her. She takes pride in sharing her culture’s ideology, lessons and delicacies and explains how meaningful her background is to her professional world.
At this point, you might be shaking your head and feeling like she is already leading. And in a sense she is a leader in her own right. I too thought that as long as she was aligning her professional goals with the growth of this technology company, she was leading. But here is the kicker in her own words:
“I am not interested in becoming a leader at this point in my life. I am not interested in managing or developing others as I have done that in previous jobs. I just want to do my daily work and go home.”
My initial reaction was one of disappointment and confusion so I probed with some questions to get a better understanding why she felt this way. She explained that she wanted to leave at night with a clear conscience with no follow-up work to do. She only wanted to focus on herself. She made it clear to me that she was choosing to work hard but had no motivation to move to any other level, even if she was highly qualified.
So what made this reluctant leader so fearful?
Fear of putting in too much time
We all know that time is a precious commodity and is not to be overlooked in any of our decisions. Being able to spend not only quality time with those we love, but also quantity time is essential. Can leaders carve out that balance to make it work? Absolutely. We need to manage time and not let it manage us.
Fear of losing her identity
I think this young woman worries that she will not be able to live up to her most important cultural value of kindness. In some way, she struggles with having to take on a new “persona” if she has more responsibilities. She is holding back and not willing to share her valuable skills and insights. Being kind is part of her personality and will never change as long as she chooses.
Fear of not performing
This wonderful contributor seems to be concerned that by growing in her job, she will not be able to achieve the best results. She is a perfectionist and doesn’t want to take on tasks that may require higher- level thinking and commitment. She is afraid of being discovered as a strong performer and being approached to do more. Yet I sense she wants to have more authority.
Fear of nurturing others
The truth is that this outstanding worker is already caring for others when she brings in food from her culture or models better ways to complete the team reports. When she shows others her strategies, she helps her teammates create more professional documents.
Have you ever been fearful or reluctant to lead? How did you overcome your obstacles?