Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Adam Grant


Although many individuals are motivated to lead, some also experience reservations about taking on leadership roles. In this dissertation, I introduce reluctance to lead and examine its impact on leader effectiveness and emergence. Drawing from the approach-inhibition theory of power, I hypothesize that reluctance to lead has a curvilinear relationship with leader effectiveness, such that leaders who are somewhat reluctant to lead are more effective than their non-reluctant or highly reluctant counterparts, in part because they engage in more empowering leadership behavior. A field study of leaders in hospital nursing units provides general support for this model, although reluctance to lead is associated with an increase in leader effectiveness only up to a small degree. However, in an experiment, I find that even slight reluctance to lead reduces leader emergence because reluctance is inconsistent with leader prototypes. Together, these studies reveal a paradox: those who are particularly well-suited to lead are less likely to become leaders. This work informs theory on the relationship between leader emergence and effectiveness, with implications for enabling qualified yet reluctant candidates to take the reins of leadership.