Why Competent Persons Refuse Positions of Leadership in Organizations and in Politics.

I did an article the other day on why incompetent people become leaders. One of my bosses commented on the article that the reason incompetent people become leaders is that competent people refuse to take up positions of leadership. They challenged me to explore why competent people refuse to become leaders. Competent leaders inspire and motivate those under them and take the organization to high levels of excellence and influence. They lead, develop and get results.

I have been a leader in both the private and public sectors for many years and I must confess it is not easy to be an effective and efficient leader. Servant and focused leadership can be stressful and at times comes with a lot of constant pressure. If one is not careful, their mental and physical health can easily be compromised as they lead. The other day the people in my house noticed that my phone doesn’t ring as much as it use to when I was in the position of leadership. They further said that I am more relaxed and able to do a lot more in my consultancies and research. If you want to know how stressful leadership can be look at President Obama when he became president and when he left, his hair was gray.

I am sure you and I know many people who are competent, with great leadership skills, and who would make great leaders but have totally refused to step into any leadership role. You could also be knowing others who may have stepped into leadership roles but left mid-way. Some of you wish that some specific people would take political leadership in your county or the country but they have refused. Why so? What do you think is the reason for this phenomenon? What exactly is the problem?

One of the major reasons is the bystander effect where people assume someone else will do it. Many are not going into elective positions because others will do it. Some lack the confidence to be decisive and pursue their vision. Others are afraid to fail in the position of leadership, while others simply do not want any responsibility. Competent people at times refuse positions of leadership for fear of looking bad among their peers or hurting relationships with colleagues.

Those that step into leadership and at times step out do so due to organizational structural problems. There are organizations that by nature deter competent people from assuming leadership positions. They are wired in a way to encourage the incompetent to lead. In such organizations, dysfunctional politics, gossip, manipulation, and sycophancy is the order of the day. The kind of people being led can also deter competent persons from taking positions of leadership. No competent person is excited to lead the YES, SHEEP, Survivors, and the Alienated type of followers. Competent leaders prefer the effective type of followers who are independent and critical thinkers.

The HR practices of an organization can be an impediment to having competent leaders. The way interviews or promotions are designed may be at fault. Most employees for leadership considerations are evaluated through unorthodox means, tenure, seniority, and how well they are liked by their supervisors. Some supervisors also want people in leadership who will do what they want without thinking. This makes it difficult for a competent person to survive in positions of leadership.

What other reasons do you think, make competent persons refuse to step into positions of leadership? Leave a comment in the article and let the conversation continue.

Dr. Mary Mugo
Strategy, Governance, and Management Consultant.

10 thoughts on “Why Competent Persons Refuse Positions of Leadership in Organizations and in Politics.”

  1. Very well stated article Dr. Mugo. It’s why Daystar University is shining at It’s best because of the leadership of a Professor who was rejected at a public university because of his professionalism and leadership skills… a good leader will thrive and excel where his competence is recognised and valued.

  2. Wanjiru Kinyanjui

    Leadership positions can be ovewhelming especially when one is not free to be creative and to think out of the box. In public institutions, the amount of burocracy can hinder an excellent leader who finds ways to improve the situation. This will lead to apathy or rejection of the job. Simple, practical solutions may be brushed aside. Been there many times.

  3. 1.These are people who are Full of themselves
    2.Cowards who dont wanna get into unchatered Waters
    3.They are a sign of Lazy fellows who want something Scripted for them witha Manual on How to Navigate

      1. Dooso Radido (Thought Leader & Publisher)

        Assumption of leadership positions (which is what many people call becoming a leader) is determined by many external factors. In politics for example, one may have political competence but lack the key elements of leadership competence. Those with political ability (which includes money or ability to marshall finances) are likely to ‘become leaders’ compared with those who have none.

        In the corporate world, becoming a leader is influenced by a different set of issues depending on people and culture there in.
        Important to note: most people have functional incompetence despite having alot of class education or ‘years of experience’ The corporate world has its biases which only show when their leaders fail to deliver.

  4. There is alot of sacrifice in leadership. Sometimes you sacrifice for people who later backbite you, so those who are competent fear of taking leadership positions because of this reason.
    Sometimes the environment where you are in affects alot eg some cultures etc

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