Guest post by Bill Donahue – Why Leaders Don’t Share Leadership

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Leaders face an ongoing tension between hanging on tightly to the reigns of their leadership, versus allowing others an opportunity to step up…and quite possibly fail. My friend Bill Donahue has written an insightful piece on how leaders can manage this tension.

Take a moment to read Bill’s post, and then weigh in on how you’ve managed to navigate this leadership tension yourself.

Click here to visit Bill’s Blog

A communal or shared approach to leadership is threatening to some leaders. High-control types fear that the purity of their vision will be compromised. Others would rather delegate to others rather than develop them.

Here are some common reasons why leaders fail to share the leadership load.

Loss of control: “Who knows what will happen if I let him/her lead?” There is always risk in leader development. Others will likely disappoint you. When that happens, remember the early days of your own leadership journey.

Feelings of inferiority: “What if my protégé is a better leader than I?” This is actually called “success” in leadership development. If this is true, light that candle don’t pour water on it. Feeling threatened is not the mark of a quality leader.

Self-centeredness: “I need the attention and I like people depending on me.” Ok, so we are all narcissists at some level. Let others shine. The day will come that you will be so glad they are getting the attention. And you can focus on your next vision.

Feelings of Inadequacy: “Why would anyone want to learn leadership from me?” Some leaders wonder it they have anything to teach others. Here’s the reality– if you have been leading, you can be teaching. Everything you have done is really part of a learning laboratory for leadership. Got to school on it and pass it on.

Fear of Failure: “What if I pick the wrong person and they screw up?” You will both learn a valuable lesson. The leader gets wiser in choosing protégés and the apprentice learns from mistakes, or has to develop character, or might discover they are not a leader (at least in this context).

Short-sightedness: “There just aren’t any other leaders around.” Some team leaders believe no one can lead like they can, and therefore there are no prospects. Remember, a prospective leader is not the most capable person in the room–they are the most teachable. Look at what people can become, not just at what they have done.

Misperceptions: “People just don’t have the desire to help!” Sometimes we think no one wants the burden of leadership. In reality, we just have not asked. We do not invite people into the drama of leadership development because we believe that secretly they hate the idea. Not true. So many people feel unworthy to lead; but if you believe in them and call out the best in them, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many respond and will work hard at it.

Ready to share the load? What stands in the way? Who is you next apprentice?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Bill’s comments are bang on.
    I’ve seen too many gifted leaders fail in developing the next generation of leaders due to their feelings of inferiority. Our goal should always be to equip the student to become better than the teacher.

  2. Norm, your idea that the goal is to equip the student to become better than the teacher is thought-provoking. I’m not sure it’s a universal truth (did Jesus intend the disciples to become ‘better’ than him?) but the principle is sound. Well said.

  3. Hey Scott, thanks for your reply 🙂
    Yeah Jesus is the hardest leadership, and the best one I think, example to follow.
    I am reminded of his comments to his disciples that they (and believers) will not only do the things that he had done but they would also do even greater things.Perhaps he was setting the example for one of the key roles of a leader.
    Happy New Year.

  4. Norm, back to your original point, I would strongly agree that leaders need to be constantly on the look-out for emerging leaders who could exceed them in particular skills. For example, a leader may be strong in ‘vision-casting’, but weak in strategic development. He would do well to develop an emerging leader with strong strategic skills.

    Great carrying on leadership banter with you!

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