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How Do I Stop Others Taking Over as Leader?

After The Three Levels of Leadership came out in 2011, readers followed up with questions on leadership, leadership psychology and self-mastery – all of them interesting.  So interesting, in fact, that I’m releasing my answers here as they supplement the “Three Levels” material and others may find them useful.  Here’s the sixteenth in the series.   I’ll post the others over the coming months…

Q16. The full question I was asked was: If I share leadership, how do I prevent others taking over from me?  The questioner posed this during a discussion about shared leadership.


“You may want to consider whether your interpretation of “leadership” is getting in the way here.

In my book, The Three Levels of Leadership, I described leadership as a four-dimensional process.  Morespecifically, the process of paying attention to four dimensions simultaneously.  First, a motivating purpose.  Second, the task, progress and results.  Third, creating and upholding a sense of group unity.  And fourth, paying attention to selecting, motivating and developing individuals.

And you may recall I described the leader’s purpose as making sure there is leadership.  In other words, making sure your group is addressing all four dimensions.

So if you’re the official leader, your role is to make sure there is a motivating purpose your colleagues care about.  You must also pay attention to making happen what you need to make happen, when you need it to happen, how you need it to happen.  You must also ensure there’s a sense of team spirit and that individuals feel noticed, appreciated and want to contribute their best.  But it doesn’t mean you have to supply the vision.  It doesn’t mean you have to provide all the answers, all the brilliance and all the charisma.  It just means that if one or more of the four dimensions is unaddressed, you must intervene.

So to come back to your question, if you see “leadership” this way, and if you see the purpose of the leader this way, why would you be worried about your colleagues “taking over from you”?

Remember, your role as leader is to serve the group by helping it define and achieve what it wants while staying together as a group and helping the individuals feel they are contributing and doing something significant and fulfilling.  If you have colleagues who in certain circumstances know more than you … or have better contacts than you … or have talents you don’t have … what’s the problem of them leading in that situation?  Isn’t that your role, to make sure there is leadership?  Does it matter who’s leading from the front at that moment as long as your group is addressing all four dimensions?

It only matters if you see being a leader and preserving your status as leader as an ego game, or rather, as a False Self game.  But if you see leadership and the role of leader the way I’ve described here, I think you’ll find this fear fades.

By the way, leaders who work on self-mastery and dissolve their main fears will find their leadership presence begins to flow naturally.  And leaders with real presence find that people around them trust them, are inspired by them and want them as leader – they don’t want to take over from them.  So the fear that others may take over becomes a non-issue.

The message: change your definition of leadership and the leader’s purpose and work on your psychology.  That way you’ll make this question irrelevant.”

James ScoullerThe author is James Scouller, an executive coach.  His book, The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Knowhow and Skill, was published in May 2011.  You can learn more about it at If you want to see its reviews, click here: leadership book reviews.  If you want to know where to buy it, click HERE.  You can read more about his executive coaching services at The Scouller Partnership’s website.

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