The Reluctant Leader

Occasionally, I will have in one of my groups a person who isn’t quite aligned with his or her role as a leader. This could be because of the need for skill building or it could be some insecurities or uncertainties about being a leader. If you are a leader of leaders and you have a person on your team who is being disruptive, you could have a reluctant leader.

Sometimes, these uncertainties and fears play out in observable behaviors. Here are a few signs that you may have a reluctant leader on your team:

1. Inappropriate use of humor. Humor is good in the workplace unless it becomes overly sarcastic or is targeted at other people on the team in an uncomfortable way. Mostly I’ve seen inappropriate humor used to deflect attention from the person using it. It makes everyone laugh, the situation is deflected and everyone moves on avoiding an issue. Other times, the person using inappropriate humor needs to be the center of attention and chooses his or her comments at times that disrupt the work flow and conversation.

Inappropriate use of humor can diminish your team’s energy and should have no place in your company culture. Other impacts of inappropriate humor are that it can alienate people and slow down production and effectiveness. There is a fine line here because as a leader, you don’t want to squelch appropriate fun in the workplace. You have to know where the boundaries are with someone who uses humor all the time.

You may want to have a conversation with this person and find out more about them. Why do they use humor? Be prepared that the person may be defensive and make light of your comments.

2. Missed deadlines. Usually people have really good rationale as to why a deadline is missed. You will want to observe and consider whether this person has a time management issue or is afraid of making a mistake, which are additional signs of a reluctant leader. Another possibility is that he or she needs to learn better collaboration and influence skills. Missed deadlines are more than a nuisance. They impact the bottom line.

3. Solving the wrong problem. This may be more relevant to your team members who are less experienced leaders. However, solving the wrong problem has broad impacts from missing your customers’ expectations to lowering revenues and profits. If you have a team or a leader that is solving the wrong problem and you know you’ve been clear about the expected outcome, you will want to explore if that person really wants to succeed or is operating from his or her own agenda. Either way, there is a reluctance to align with the corporate vision and solve the right problems for the company and your customers.

New leaders are usually eager to do a great job and may have anxiety about performance. New leaders or those with less empathic or social intelligence may not be aware of their impact on others.

One of your main jobs as a leader is to mentor, coach and work with all your leaders. Regular conversations and feedback are essential to supporting your leaders and particularly your new leaders. The impact as they experience your support and guidance will help them gain confidence and eliminate any issues you may have with a reluctant leader.

For a complimentary consultation on mentoring your employees, contact me and I will connect with you to schedule a phone appointment.

Whether it is mentoring people to lead more effectively, improve their own performance or step into what is next, Kathy Garland is passionate about guiding leaders to achieve business goals and reach their highest potential.

© 2014 Kathy Garland

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