First, I’d ask the person to make sure that this how he felt. That he really didn’t want to lead. As you and I know, once you know you’re a leader, it’s hard to not lead. I would imagine the same is true for this scenario – once you know you don’t want to be a leader, it’s hard to become one or to continue to be in that role. So step 1 is to really invest some time with yourself and ask if this is true – that you don’t want to be a leader. The biggest thing I’d be on the lookout for here are two things – is it actually burnout and/or do you have a people problem you really don’t want to deal with. If those are the causes, it might just mean you’re avoiding conflict or have a hard time delegating. But if those two things aren’t at the root of this revelation, then yeah, maybe leadership isn’t the right role for you.
Once you get through that, step two is to identify what those who work for you are missing out on by not having a leader. People tend to be happier at work when they have a clear leader, a mentor, and a coach to guide them in things other than getting work done. They will need some level of leadership to keep them happy and engaged, and if you’re not going to provide that, someone else will need to fill that role. Without a leader, your people are likely missing out on career development, conversations about culture, and possibly clarity about why they’re doing the work they do. Those are all really important aspects of leadership your team needs access to, in order to be successful in their roles.
The next step would then be to talk to your people about it. You may not need to talk to everyone; it depends on the size of your team. But you definitely need to talk to them about your role, about how you’re realizing you’re not the leader of the organization, and that you’d like their feedback on if they’re seeing the same thing. It’s also a great place to ask for feedback on what they think they’re missing out on due to the lack of leadership. This will help you build out the list mentioned in the prior step.
The final step here is to determine a solution to address the lack of leadership. It might mean bringing in a new employee or team member. It might mean having an interim person come in and be a kind of chief coaching officer. The best case scenario is when there’s someone on the team already who wants to step into that leadership position. Some people on your team may already consider that person the leader – but you want to make sure that individual wants to be a leader. There are a lot of solutions, but at the end of the day, it will require someone stepping into the leadership role.
If you are in a leadership role, but really don’t want to be, that’s ok. The most important thing is to be aware of your feelings and then to do something about them. Ultimately, you want to protect those on your team – keep their best interests in mind. If you let that guide you, you’ll make the right decisions as you move through the above steps.