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The Best Leaders Are Reluctant Leaders

Reluctant Leaders are the Best Leaders

What is a Reluctant Leader?

“You may obey a leader who has power and authority, but you will not strive to serve her or the cause of the organization unless you respect and care for her in addition to the ones with whom you serve.”

– Dan B. Allender, Leading with a Limp

A Reluctant Leader is not a style or methodology of leadership… it is how leaders are born. Since before the modern world, there have been two types of leaders: those that seek the role and those that accept the role.

The Leadership Seeker

Being a Leadership Seeker is not a bad thing. Seekers have aspirations for their careers, livelihood and personal life. They drive toward making an impact that is noticeable and accept praise for successes. The Seeker can be passionate, motivated by their internal goals and targets. They can influence others, gaining trust and buy-in to their game plan. Seekers know how to sell – their ideas, their methods, their vision and their goals.

“Authority: The skill of getting people to willingly do your will, because of your personal influence.”

– James C. Hunter, The Servant

The downside of Seekers? They put their needs and goals ahead of others. They do not learn from a defeat or failure. Their desire for recognition takes the spotlight off of their teams and focuses it solely on themselves. They are slow to praise but quick to point fingers. When describing their project or work, they use “I” and “They” rather than “We” or “Us”. They churn through followers either through attrition or conflict. Loyalty is not a factor with Seekers.

The Leadership Acceptor (aka The Reluctant Leader)

“The greatest leaders are reluctant ones who lead because they realize that no one else seems willing to step up.”

– Orrin Woodward

The Acceptor is someone who sees the need but no one willing to fill it. Acceptors analyze the situation before committing. They begin by asking themselves, “Can I do this?”. They visualize both failure and success. Acceptors hold the needs of the team and the affected to higher level than their own. Acceptors ask a lot of questions of others seeking feedback and ideas, rather than insert their goals and targets to achieve the greater good. Communication is a constant and becomes the culture of the Acceptors role and team. Problem solving is the Acceptors primary focus, measuring the outcome of the status quo versus changing direction. The greatest strength of an Acceptor is their creativity in building a solution, team and/or organization and forming a symbiotic relationship between the three.

The Reluctant Leader evolves from Acceptor to a leadership role over a short period of time. Acceptors often reject the vision of Seekers, choosing to identify the path with the collaboration of others. When something does not work, Acceptors determine root cause and pivot. Acceptors measure themselves by the number of obstacles they clear not the just the achievement of a goal.

The downside of an Acceptor? As a servant leader, they sometimes lose sight of the big picture and get lost in the details. Acceptors have a hard time of not being hands on and delegating. Because the concept of being a Reluctant Leader is the origin of their leadership role, any acceptor who finds no intrinsic reward in their position is doomed to always having reluctance to stepping up again.

What does a Reluctant Leader rely on versus a Leadership Seeker?

Reluctant Leaders…

Place people in roles where they can succeed

Seek input on solving the issue

Love collaboration

Act as advocates

Desire intrinsic fulfillment

Champion change to solve a problem

Passionate about serving others

See the team as a collection of people with unique strengths

Leadership Seekers…

Place people in roles that fill a need

Seek buy-in with little discussion

Love Oration

Act as prosecutors

Desire recognition

Champion change to distinguish themselves

Want to be served

See the team as a metric – the more on the team, the more power the Seeker will possess.


The best leaders are molded over time. They begin with self-doubt, which can drive them toward meeting their goals. Leadership is a journey, with smooth sailing as well as choppy water. The Reluctant Leader adapts and keeps the team, project or organization on the right path.

Source by Scott A Schledwitz

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