Promising employees often hesitate to seize leadership opportunities due to perceived risks. A recent study reveals that this reluctance stems from concerns over damaging interpersonal relationships, the fear of appearing negative in front of peers, and the risk of being blamed for failures. While organizations stress the importance of leadership, they must also recognize and mitigate these concerns to promote leadership from a broader range of individuals.
- Three Kinds of Risk: Research identified three major perceived risks deterring individuals from leadership roles:
Interpersonal Risk: Fear that leadership may harm relationships with colleagues.
Image Risk: Concern that taking the lead might negatively impact how others perceive them.
Risk of Being Blamed: Apprehension that leading a failed initiative might result in personal blame.
- Effects of Perceived Risks: These risks influenced behavior across the board. MBA students showed lesser leadership in their projects, managers exhibited fewer leadership behaviors, and employees were rated as showing less leadership initiative by their peers.
- Mitigating Risk: To nurture leadership and reduce these risks:
Managers should support risk-sensitive colleagues, especially those early in their careers or from minority groups.
Handle team conflicts effectively to avoid discouraging potential leaders.
Offer lower-stakes leadership opportunities to help potential leaders gain experience and confidence without major career consequences.