8 Tips for Encouraging a Reluctant Leader

8 Tips for Encouraging a Reluctant Leader

Who are the leaders or potential leaders around you who are reluctant to take on the role of “leader” or who are reluctantly in the role and might need a little support? We all know them. They are not sure they want to be the leader because they feel under-qualified, under-prepared, introverted, or may have had role models or people in their past who have minimized them or their potential. Reluctance to be the leader isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it could be a strength because they know that the stakes are high for those they lead. Here are eight quick tips for investing in these reluctant leaders.

  1. Let them know that mistakes are normal  – Leaders at all level make mistakes, but new or reluctant leaders need to be encouraged that it’s normal. They will oftentimes feel like they have to be flawless, and they don’t.
  2. Assure them they do not need to have all the answers – Being a leader isn’t about having all the right answers, but oftentimes be willing to ask the next question. Leaders with all the answers are annoying anyway, and sometimes even a little dangerous.
  3. Encourage them to remind themselves of why they chose to step up and lead in the first place – Purpose is a powerful thing, and too often we fail to remind ourselves of the bigger purpose in why we are leading. Encouraging them to think about why can help them manage the realistic storms and challenges of being the leader.
  4. Give them the basic tools to get started – Leading for the first time is hard, so having some basic systems and tools to rely on is a huge help. Something as simple as a quick guide to leading a meeting or how to encourage others is a huge first step for them. Without some simple structure or guides, getting started as a leader can be overwhelming.
  5. Let them know it will get easer (probably) – Transitioning their identity from “I am not a leader and I have no business leading people or at this level” to “I don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m doing it – I’m leading people” is a shift that will take place. At first it can help to simply have someone who can let them know that it does get easier – at least until they take that leap to leading at a different level of scope.
  6. Send them a text, a note, or leave them a voicemail that thanks them for stepping up to lead, and let them know you are behind them – Surprising notes from encouraging others are huge, but we oftentimes minimize their impact. Send a note – encourage a reluctant leader.
  7. Ask them what they are learning about themselves or about being a leader – This will give them an opportunity to reflect, for you to see them and know how to invest in them, and to increase the possibility that they will be able to transfer their learning to their next leadership role.
  8. Assure them that their reluctance to lead is strength – Our world is full of leaders who do not hesitate to step forward. It is time we raised up a few leaders who are in touch enough with the stakes and the needs of others to show a bit of reluctance.

– Rob McKenna


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