When You Don’t Want to Lead at Work

RejectedIn many professions, the expected career trajectory is that, after a certain amount of time in a position, you are ready to become the leader of your department. You should want to become the leader… Uh, you do want to be a leader at some point, right?

No? Really, you don’t? Well, guess what?


It’s a little frustrating to hear it said that becoming a manager, a director, or a CxO is what everyone should aspire to in their career path. At the same time, one of three things are assumed if you are not in a leadership position:

  • you are new to the field and are building your skills,
  • you are not as competent as others who are promoted to managerial positions, or
  • you are lazy.

Hogwash, I say!

Who decided that having a goal to become a leader is the gold standard in managing your career? Why is that necessarily what everyone should be striving for?

The reality is: being a manager is not a good fit for everyone. If you’ve been in your field for a while and you enjoy what you are doing right now, then, by all means, manage your career path so that you have success in this and other similar roles. Doing so doesn’t mean you are less able to do your job. It doesn’t infer that you are lazy or “not living up to your potential.”

If you are happy with what you are doing and you want to keep performing in that position, it actually denotes a higher level of awareness about who you are. You aren’t being swayed by the pressure to become a leader or falling for the hype that would try to glamorize something that, you know in your heart, just isn’t for you. Really, when you think about it, because you know yourself so well, you are actually building an authentic personal brand.

For some, leading or striking out on their own as an entrepreneur is the dream. But others, for whatever reason, have other dreams — dreams that entail staying at the same level in the organizational hierarchy, whether it be for their current company or another one. And that should not be denigrated or treated like a consolation prize. It’s a valid choice based on some factors that have nothing to do with competence and everything to do with personal preference.

What do you think? Should everyone work toward being the leader, or is it OK to stay in support roles?

Image courtesy ofsmemon87

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