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Ngozi Adebiyi: Embrace Your Status as a Leader-in-Waiting



Leadership is hardwork and we often expect a lot from our leaders. The common thinking is that leaders should have the capacity to make sense of every immensely complex issue. They are expected to have the depth of knowledge to be visionary; to display the wisdom of experience to create a path for others to follow; to exhibit the abilities to juggle all priorities; to have the right answers for every challenge, to have the discernment to hire the right people; and keep it all together. Phew!

Only very few leaders can live up to these standards; so rather than be burdened with the perfection-ism of a “complete leader”, the one who’s got it all figured out, why not embrace the “leader in waiting” status?
Drawing from the definition, lady-in-waiting & gentleman-in-waiting which historically in Europe was often a noblewoman or nobleman from a family in “good society” but who was of lower rank than the person on whom she/he attended.

When we start to see ourselves as leaders-in-waiting, we’re more aware of the role we play at each given time – with sights set on becoming a full blown leader in the coming months and years. The leader-in-waiting title generates a consciousness that comes with a sense of responsibility.

To become an effective leader it’s important to first let go of the fear of appearing incompetent and embrace vulnerability which is simply defined as the act of being human.

In organisations today, the job of the leader is to cultivate and coordinate the actions of others, get things done through others, identify where their strength lies and select a team of allies who would complement in other domains to support in delivering the required results.

At the heart of being an effective leader-in-waiting is your personal characteristic as a leader. The ability to lead others begins with yourself. Your emotional intelligence, learning agility, credibility and integrity.
Identify your strengths from the leadership domains (Influencing, Relationship building, Executing, and Strategic Thinking).

Embrace your status and enjoy the journey to becoming the full blown leader. Take in all the learnings along the way. As you progress on the journey, identify a team of allies (within or outside your workplace) to complement you in domain areas where you’re not as strong while you grow your capability and personal proficiency.

Are you a leader-in-waiting? Embrace your status.

Ngozi Adebiyi is the Lead Consultant at OutsideIn HR & Career/Leadership Coach @ OutsideInCoach. Our focus is practical interventions that address the challenges of businesses today. We specialise in HR Business Partnering & Leadership Development with the goal of revolutionising HR in Nigeria & consciously unleashing inner greatness! [email protected]


  1. Ada_ugo

    April 12, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Nice article. I like the overall premise, and I see what you’re getting at. But a Lady-in-waiting is not actually a young lady who is waiting to be promoted/elevated to a Lady status. Rather, she is the young woman who waits on (as in attends to) her madam, hence the term “in-waiting”. So I’m not sure how leadership fits into that paradigm

    • Ngozi Adebiyi

      April 18, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Ada_ugo.
      What was stated is an analogy and the definition highlighted in the article is similar to your definition and speaks to embracing one’s would be leader status or better still one’s work-in-progress leadership capabilities. Hope this clarifies….
      (See paragraph 2 above as quoted below)
      “Drawing from the definition, lady-in-waiting & gentleman-in-waiting which historically in Europe was often a noblewoman or nobleman from a family in “good society” but who was of lower rank than the person on whom she/he attended…..”

    • Idia-Akanbi

      April 20, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Ada-Ugo, I too had an eyebrow raising moment when I first read that line but when you think about it in the principle of service. When we realise that we are leaders in waiting, we have a service approach to leadership upwards and downwards. Drawing on the strengths of effective leadership, weeding away dysfunctional barriers while demystifying vulnerabilities (over burdened expectations) of current leadership.

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