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5 Signs You Should Not Be A Leader

By March 13, 20232 Comments
woman thinking who should not be a leader

Not everyone is meant to be a leader.

Just like not everyone is meant to be a teacher, a pilot, a customer service representative (have you experienced someone who definitely should NOT be in customer service? 🙄), an architect or a barista, not everyone is meant to be a leader.

Yet many companies still follow the old practice of promoting the technical superstart to a leadership position. To elevate our cultures, we not to stop promoting employees for technical expertise and promote for leadership qualities. This means we need to put time and energy into coaching our employees and preparing them for leadership positions BEFORE they move into the role.

Not everyone has the competencies required to lead a team.

Most managers don’t receive any formal training before being promoted into a leadership role. That was certainly the case for me.  

My first official leadership position was a supervisor for the IT help desk at an insurance company. No one formally sat me down and shared what was expected of me in my new role, and there was no training class for me to attend. I thought my job was to give instructions and answer questions, but there is lot more required to be a successful leader. It took time, experience, and—yes, eventually—formal training for me to understand what skills were important to be an exceptional leader.  

I’ve seen many people have this experience: They are promoted to a leadership role without fully understanding what it takes to be successful. In fact, not everyone is meant to be a leader. 

When I worked for a credit union, one of the best performers on my team told me she had no interest in moving into a leadership role. 

She realized that having tough conversations, managing personalities and giving feedback to employees was not something she would enjoy or be good at. I always admired her for knowing her strengths and what she wanted in her career, because most employees aspire to a leadership role without knowing what it truly entails.  

Whether you are currently in a leadership role or you aspire to a leadership position one day, I want to offer some guidance on how to tell if leadership is or is not the best career path for you or your employees. 

How to tell if leadership is or is not the best career path for you or your employees.


Here are five signs—updated from my previous list of four—that you should not be a leader:

1. You prefer to work alone.

Leadership is about inspiring others to bring out their best and help them achieve individual and organizational goals. This requires consistent coaching, supporting and recognition of employees. 

Exceptional leaders don’t see these as duties they somehow have to fit in to their busy schedule and workload; they see them as a responsibility to foster the potential in each employee and the team. Exceptional leaders realize that spending time with their people is a great investment toward mutual success. It’s OK to prefer to work alone, but that probably means you shouldn’t be a leader. 

Cultivating relationships is the foundation of inspiring people to make their best contribution. 

2. You avoid confrontation.

Most people don’t like confrontation, but leaders must put those feelings aside and have difficult conversations. 

There are some universal truths in leadership: People will not always meet expectations, and things will not always go as planned. 

As a leader, you will often need to approach uncomfortable situations with your employees, your colleagues and even your boss. 

Exceptional leaders don’t avoid these situations—they see them as a necessary step for working through issues and moving forward. 

3. You prefer doing technical work.

One of the biggest challenges that holds leaders back from being successful is the inability to delegate. 

Many leaders who were superstars in a contributor role have a hard time not putting their technical expertise to use and getting into the weeds. But the competencies needed to be successful in a leadership role are very different from a technical role.  

Leadership is about getting results through people, not by yourself. If you prefer doing technical work, that’s a good sign that you should remain in a technical role where you can shine.  

4. You think the people side of the business is ‘too soft.’

Two important elements of successful leadership are getting results and fostering positivity. 

You cannot have a successful team if you don’t have both of these elements. If you think focusing on employee engagement is not worth your time and effort, you should not be a leader. 

Engagement leads to higher productivity, which leads to results. 

Exceptional leaders spend most of their time developing and supporting their employees. If this “softer” people-focused side of the business is not appealing, you should not be a leader. 

5. You’d rather fix than facilitate.

Great leaders facilitate exceptional performance from their teams by instilling ownership and accountability in others through coaching, supporting and guiding them to their potential and getting results. This takes time, energy and effort, and it requires leaders to frequently adjust their style to be effective with employees’ different preferences and personalities. 

If you’d prefer to fix problems and accomplish daily activities rather than spending time guiding, supporting and coaching others to elicit their highest potential (and to fix the problems themselves), that’s a good sign you should not be a leader. 

Leadership is not the best career path for everyone. We need to make it OK for people to opt out of being a leader. 

We shouldn’t just want anyone or even any high performer in leadership. 

  • We need people in leadership roles who are capable of serving others and focusing a lot of time and effort on the development of their people. 
  • We need people in leadership roles who understand the importance of delegation, coaching and employee recognition. 
  • We need to stop promoting technical superstars to leadership roles because we think it’s the next and only natural step. It’s not the best next step for everyone. 

If any of these 5 signs resonate with you, it might be time to consider you might be someone who should not lead a team. And that’s OK! There are many professional positions where individuals can contribute their talents and abilities that do not involve leadership.

Laurie Maddalena

Laurie Maddalena is CEO of Envision Excellence, a leadership consulting firm that provides leadership development programs for managers and executives, keynote speeches, teambuilding, and leadership assessments. Learn more about Laurie:


  • Beverly Zook says:

    Great topic! Sometimes, employees want to be promoted to leadership roles for the increased income, so it is important to make sure that those who are not destined for leadership also feel valued both internally and financially.

  • Darrell Martin says:

    I wish more jobs, and companies would set up training in the lead roles, to see who would be the right fit for leadership, this will ensure the start of the right behavior in the world in which we all play an important role, its a cycle and we need to see the bigger picture how can we make a different an were can I as a person, help structure our world, see everything starts when we enter act, which most of that happens at work, and depending on your job hours it can out way home time, the balance to see how a person can communicate with you, starts when you wake up for your day, are you going to be a leader or a person to follow with a person that is striving to be a great leader, maybe that person might even awake a leadership role in you, never know til we make that first step. I think people should seek that first and then see if they fit that role, before or it could cause all types of problems, just like we have to network with each other in the real world.

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