From a business coaching perspective, organizations should account for reluctant leaders who don’t want to lead anymore. Leaders who want to step back should be aware they’re not alone, and not wanting to lead is neither a shame nor an underhanded punch to their organizations. Executive coaching can help leaders make and own their decisions not to lead anymore.

“For many, retirement is a time for personal growth, which becomes the path to greater freedom.” – Robert Delamontagne. 

Like everyone else, leaders retire or sometimes quit. Sometimes, they run out of gas and lose the driving force behind their leadership. A leader’s position requires high energy, engagement, and dedication. No one can keep all that up forever.

As a leadership coaching expert, I met many successful leaders who reached midlife and woke up one day asking themselves, “Is this it? Is this all life has to offer me?”


The time may come when a leader doesn’t want to lead anymore. 

Losing the will to lead and admitting that one doesn’t want to lead anymore are the results of many internal struggles. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to lead, but before leaders accept that truth and commit to their decisions, they have several questions to answer.

As an executive coaching professional, I can tell you you’re not alone. Many leaders yearn for the days when they only carried responsibility for themselves. Not being a leader certainly grants one a type of freedom only a leader can truly appreciate.

The Internal Struggle Behind Not Wanting to Lead

Leadership coaching is about helping leaders find ways for self-improvement and personal growth. Sometimes, the journey that leads to these objectives may involve twists and turns like not wanting to lead anymore.

Let’s not forget that many leaders are reluctant leaders. They never wanted to step up to the proverbial plate, but the circumstances forced them to. They then turned out to be the best leaders their organizations could have wanted, but their leadership reluctance never subsided. They stepped up when the organizations needed them, gave it their best shots, and now they’re ready to step down. There’s no shame in not wanting to lead.

That said, many leaders feel bad over wanting to step down.

  • Some perceive it as an act of cowardice and desertion. By stepping down, they deprive people of the leadership they need.
  • Everyone sees great potential in them. By stepping down, they feel they’d disappoint their supporters.
  • If they step down, they’ll lose the benefit of their current salaries. Their earning potential may diminish.
  • Given the current state of the economy and world, shouldn’t they be grateful they have good jobs?
  • Leadership has baked itself into their identities. Who will they be, and what will they do without it?

Making the Decision and Owning It

Executive coaching can help leaders fight internal struggles and make decisions they won’t regret down the line. Coaching can help leaders clarify their options, choices, preferences, goals, and wishes. At the end of it all, it can help them make choices and assert their needs.


Once they make their choices, leaders should own them. 

Once they choose their paths, leaders should step forward and own them. They should talk to their higher-ups about this and focus on morphing into outstanding individual contributors whose strengths organizations can leverage without leadership involvement.

Knowing What to Expect

Business coaching is aware losing leaders can set organizations back significantly. Organizations aren’t likely to take kindly to leaders stepping back. Thus, leaders who don’t want to lead must be ready for consequences.

By stepping down from leadership positions, leaders will limit their options at their organizations.

Some organizations may not tolerate leaders who don’t want to lead, adhering to “up or out” philosophies. Leaders who find themselves looking to step back in such organizations should consider looking for employment elsewhere.

The trick to successfully stepping down as a leader is to find a role where one can be an integral part of the team without leading anyone.


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