An Unconventional Win

“The most important thing I learned is that I don’t want to be a leader.”

You know, when I heard this from someone who’d just finished a leadership program I was running, it really made me think. You might expect I’d be disappointed or even upset, considering the program’s goal was to prep people for their first management role. But here’s the twist: this statement wasn’t a setback, it was actually a big win in a different way.

Here’s why. Leadership development isn’t just about churning out managers. It’s as much about helping people figure out what they really want in their careers. This person’s honest feedback is gold. It shows a deep level of self-awareness, ironically a key trait for effective leadership.

Discovering that leadership isn’t their calling is crucial. It stops us from putting them, and the team, in a tricky spot where no one’s happy. Plus, it saves resources. Think about all the time and effort that might go into addressing this new manager’s lack of performance because they were dissatisfied with their role.

This insight also broadens our understanding of team roles. Leadership is one path, but it’s not the only one. Recognizing the importance of specialists and individual contributors is crucial. These roles are essential to a team’s success and should be valued just as much.

The takeaway here is that leadership programs should do more than equip potential leaders with skills. They should also be a journey of self-discovery, helping participants to explore their true interests and strengths.

This experience underscores the importance of having varied development paths within an organization. 

Not everyone is destined for a leadership track, and that’s perfectly okay.

Hearing “I don’t want to be a leader” isn’t a failure. 

It’s a powerful insight into professional growth and development, reminding us to appreciate the diverse range of talents and ambitions within our teams. 

It’s about understanding that success in leadership development isn’t one-size-fits-all, but rather about aligning individuals with roles that truly suit their skills and passions.

image of professional declining an offer
Scroll to Top