What are accidental leaders?
These are individuals who never set out to lead, yet for various reasons found themselves steering teams, guiding projects or running small businesses and as a result now face the challenges of managing people without prior preparation or training.. .
If you’ve ever questioned how you ended up in a leadership role, you might just be an accidental leader.
Let’s explore five key clues that signal you’ve embarked on an unplanned leadership journey.
1. The Promotion That Caught You by Surprise:
Remember that promotion you received? The one that seemed to come out of the blue? If your ascent to a leadership position left you pleasantly stunned, you might be an accidental leader. Accidental leaders often find themselves climbing the corporate ladder due to their expertise and exceptional performance in their functional domain.
2. Thriving in the Limelight:
If you suddenly find yourself in the spotlight, representing your team or department in meetings and discussions, you might have inadvertently stepped into a leadership role. Accidental leaders often become the go-to person for insights and decisions simply because of their proficiency.
3. People Management Wasn’t in the Blueprint:
If your journey started with a focus on perfecting your technical skills rather than developing leadership prowess, you might just be an accidental leader. The transition from an individual contributor to managing a team can be a surprise twist in your career story.
4. From Founder to Leader:
As your small business expands, you will take on responsibilities beyond your initial scope. When you start coordinating projects, making strategic decisions and you find yourself surrounded by a growing team, you’re transitioning into a leadership role. The shift from “doing” to “leading” can be a telltale sign. Your influence extends beyond your product or service as you start to guide and inspire others toward a shared vision. Your actions and decisions shape the culture and direction of your business.
5. The Imposter Syndrome Creeps In:
One of the most common feelings among accidental leaders is the imposter syndrome – that nagging doubt that you’re not qualified for the role you’re in, that you will get found out eventually. If you sometimes wonder how you ended up leading a team or department, rest assured that imposter syndrome is a shared experience for many accidental leaders.
Unintentional leadership is not a phenomenon exclusive to you; it’s a path many have walked before.
In bigger businesses these individuals, are often propelled into leadership roles due to their functional expertise. They excelled at their technical specialism or ability to do their current job really well and this was what got them promoted, with more responsibility and direct reports …..until suddenly…they’re a manager who leads. Often thrust into positions of authority without adequate preparation, these accidental leaders grapple with the complexities of managing teams, while yearning for the expertise that brought them to this point.
As a small business owner, scaling up often means you can end up leading a team of people by default rather than design. The quicker your business grows, the quicker you take on a team of people. Because you are so focussed on getting the day job done, dealing with the pace of change and keeping the business running you probably don’t even see yourself as a leader initially. You likely still see yourself as your professional role (eg, solicitor, IT consultant, accountant, digital marketer) and you continue to prioritise the day job activities over learning and developing those skills that will help you manage and lead you people effectively.
Points to ponder:
- How did I get here? – what resonates with me?
- Do I embrace my role?
- What further impact can I make?
Remember, the journey of an accidental leader can be as rewarding as it is unexpected.
Embrace the clues that reveal your status as an accidental leader and use these signs as a compass to navigate your new role.
Invest in management and leadership development, and seize the opportunity to shape a positive impact within your team and business.
And if you’d like to chat about how you do that Book a complementary call here