Everyone wants to progress up the career ladder, don’t they? To develop their skills, be rewarded for their expertise and experience as a leader. To be identified by senior management as having the ‘right stuff’ to climb out of the lower ranks and join the exulted few in the leadership team. This is what career development is all about, isn’t it? Be recognised by your leaders, and rewarded with a leadership position of your own.
After all, leadership positions come with higher seniority, greater privileges, more control, and higher salaries. It’s what everyone wants, right? The thing to which we all aspire.
Or is it?
Leadership roles can represent a major shift in the way you work, the responsibilities you have, and the relationships you have within the organisation. And for many, it’s a shift that doesn’t sit comfortably with them.
Leadership is not for everyone
The question we ask in the heading of this article is whether anyone actually wants to be a leader.
The reality is that there will always be a proportion of the workforce who DO want to become leaders, who DO aspire to climb the ranks, to manage their own team. Who DO have the ambition to work their way towards the lofty realms of the C-Suite.
But these may comprise significantly fewer than you may imagine.
In traditional working environments, promotion to a leadership role comes with additional baggage, such as:
- Added corporate responsibility
- Mentoring duties
- Relocating to new office space
- Changes to working relationships
Aspects which are not entirely appealing for many an employee; feeling that it’s a departure away from the type of work they’re comfortable with. That individuals may be quite happy with the job they’ve got, unwilling to take on further responsibility or, perhaps unsure of their own ability to do so.
A sign perhaps, that all is not right with the culture of the organisation?
Company culture, or employer brand, lies at the heart of an inclusive workforce, where employees have a sense of value and worth, and are invested in the overall success and growth in the organisation, beyond their own particular job role.
A culture that lends itself to employees taking greater responsibility, an environment where leadership is allowed to develop among staff in an organic fashion.
Removing the Chain of Command
There’ve been numerous studies over the past decade that demonstrate this employee reluctance to become a leader; with as few as 7% aspiring to C-Suite roles.
But these are arguably old studies, reflective of old methods of leadership; unsuited to the behaviour and expectation of modern employees.
Modern organisations that are generating positive working cultures through new approaches to leaderships – redefining what it is to be a leader in business.
Management structures that are flattened out, taking away the perceived ladder, or chain of command. The ‘Holacracy’ of Zappos, as an example, offering a more ‘self-managing’ culture where leadership is inherent in every job role.
Radical changes to management structures, such as the Zappos example, may in fact suggest that resistance to taking on leadership roles may well stem from cultures where there’s a definite divide or barrier between leaders and employees. A ‘them-and-us’ culture creating a reluctance for individuals to ‘change teams’ and lose touch with their colleagues.
By shifting away from this more traditional hierarchical structure, towards a more transparent, fluid, and collaborative culture, the pressure to ‘become a leader’ is removed, as leadership, responsibility, and value-added decision making is imbued into the rolls of employees across the organisation.