How To Explain Wanting To Step Down From A Leadership Role

Woman talks to her boss about wanting to step down from her leadership role

So you want to step down from a leadership role to become an individual contributor. A lot of people see leadership at the top and individual contributors at the bottom. And so the natural question is, "Why the step back?" And, unfortunately, over many years recruiters and hiring managers get cynical, so they assume something is going on unless you can successfully explain why you want to step down from your leadership position.

Focus On The Opportunity To Build Your Skill Sets & Hone Your Craft

The key to explaining why you want to step down from a leadership position and be an individual contributor again is to follow the "Experience + Learn = Grow" model that I teach at Work It DAILY. You need to keep your explanation as factual and objective as possible.

When you're an individual contributor, one of the bonuses or upsides is that you get to build your skill sets. You get to hone your craft. You get to get to the next level in the kind of value that you can create.

When you become a leader or a manager, you step away from the majority of that. Now you're coaching or mentoring others. It's a different thing. It's servant leadership.

As a leader, what can happen over time is your ability to stay on the cutting edge of your industry and keep up to date with your skills and abilities can dull a bit because you're not doing it every single day.

Here's a great example of how to explain why you're stepping down from a leadership position:

"I was an individual contributor, and in that time I was learning a lot of skills and it positioned me to become a leader. And as a leader, I was able to coach and develop X number of people. But what I miss is my ability to continue learning, growing, and becoming cutting-edge in that skill set. That's why I want to go back to being an individual contributor. I think there's a lot for me to learn and benefit from, and I think there are other people out there that right now it's their turn to lead. But for me, it's about being able to do that work—the thing that I love and growing my skill set."

That's an honest and valid answer.

It's important to share an explanation like the one above, especially if you're a seasoned professional because age discrimination exists. I can't change your age, but a large part of that discrimination is actually experience discrimination and how you explain your experience. One of the techniques that I teach at Work It DAILY talks about this from a more balanced perspective. You pay a wisdom tax, and so you need to be able to articulate these kinds of career moves or transitions in a way that makes sense.

By following the "Experience + Learn = Grow" model and focusing on skill development opportunities, you'll successfully explain why you want to step down from a leadership position and be an individual contributor again. Find your voice, tell them your story, and let them see the complete you.

Good luck, and go get 'em!

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