6 Excellent Reasons Most Leaders Are Not Qualified to Lead

The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal

Every day, people are promoted into leadership who are completely unqualified to lead. People are placed in a leadership role because they’re a good performer who’s overdue for a promotion or because they act the part—even though they’re completely unequipped to motivate or coach people. Or the board selects a CEO who excels at processes and procedures but doesn’t connect with people.

In most cases, a leadership role requires an entirely different set of skills and aptitudes than the work that got them there. Maybe that’s why a Gallup report found that companies pick the wrong managerial candidates 82 percent of the time—a frightening statistic, since managers have the greatest impact on employee engagement.

My work as a leadership coach and business consultant often brings me into contact with leaders who are unqualified to lead, here are six excellent reasons why this is true:

1. Power and authority don’t qualify. While unqualified leaders try to gain authority from titles, successful leaders earn authority by establishing mutual trust and accountability among colleagues. Leadership is not a title but a behavior.

2. Processes doesn’t motivate. Some people love designing processes and procedures, and every organization needs people with that expertise. But successful leaders focus on people, not processes. How things work is less important than who makes them work.

3. Explanations don’t engage or empower. The worst leaders will tell you how things should be done simply because they believe they know best. The best will navigate the way and then guide your journey. True leaders are selfless and consider it a privilege to serve and connect with others.

4. “My way or the highway” doesn’t inspire. Leadership requires courageous thought and innovative creativity; it prizes inclusion and diversity. But an unqualified and insecure leader is likely to be rigid and cautious in their thinking and value obedience and conformity in their team.

5. Competence doesn’t communicate. The most important element of leadership is communication and connection, drawing people in. When a worker is promoted into leadership because of their competence in a particular area, they may have no clue about the interpersonal requirements of their new position. It’s understandable that they’d just want to close their office door and do what they know how to do.

6. Success can’t happen in a silo. An unqualified leader with a sudden promotion is likely to be more invested in their own success story than in the people around them. But successful leaders know true leadership becomes ineffective, if not impossible, without teamwork and respect for other people.

It’s possible for even the most unqualified leader to succeed if they’re willing to let go of old patterns and undertake a lot of new learning.

Lead from within: True leadership lies in guiding others to success and ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well, by unleashing their greatness and minding their gaps.


N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images


Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.

7 Responses to “6 Excellent Reasons Most Leaders Are Not Qualified to Lead”

  1. Narayan Kamath

    14. Apr, 2017

    Lolly, while I agree that it is possible for most people to learn how to lead, I find that some people would be much happier going back to roles where they contribute more as individuals rather than as designated leaders. However, it is somehow considered unacceptable – people get branded as failures, when they opt out of leadership roles…

    Reply to this comment
    • Barry Linetsky

      04. May, 2017

      Agree. But it should be incumbent on the person’s manager, and accepted in the corporate culture, that not all promotions work out. Sometimes it’s the wrong person, in the wrong role, at the wrong time, or more likely just one or two of these. Instead of letting competent people go down, a more humanistic corporate culture would help the new leader by providing a way out and into a more suitable role in which they can exercise their full capabilities. That there are so many managers with the traits identified in the post is likely an indication that unqualified leaders are hiring other unqualified leaders. It doesn’t have to be this way.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Grant Merriel

    19. Apr, 2017

    I noticed that most CEOs/business owners give leadership roles to people who are serving the company for long years. While some are unqualified or not connected with team members even though they’re so good at their job, they learn to mature and change. But of course, if CEOs want them to be qualified leaders, they need to teach/train/support them.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Mike

    03. May, 2017

    Truly an excellent read!!! Servant leadership is powerful when done right!! Internalized for the power of the team(people) is truly a win,win in leadership! !!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Sylvester Vanessa

    05. Nov, 2017

    These types of leaders are common in corporate and in politics.They also have very loyal followers and it instantly becomes hard to speak truthfully to them. Do you think that they can still have a positive impact on their environment? Do you think that they can be changed into great leaders? Love your blog by the way!

    Reply to this comment

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