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Career Pathways Without Managing People

21 Jul 2021 8:30 AM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

How do I further my career & leadership possibilities when I don't specifically want to manage people?


Advancement Without Managing People

Dear Advancement Without Managing People,

I commend you on your self awareness. Acknowledging that your aspirations for advancing your career do not involve managing people is going to save you, and likely the people you would manage, from unnecessary frustration. While managing people may be the most common track for increasing professional responsibilities or advancement in a career, it is not the only track. If more managers pushed themselves to reflect on the reasons they pursue a management position which requires supervision, I expect teams in every industry would be way better off! Although you didn’t share why you aren’t interested in managing people, I assume it is likely because your skills, confidence, or passions don’t lie in navigating people dynamics or managing other people’s goals. Instead you likely perceive yourself as a doer who excels at managing your projects and tasks, seeks to launch new ideas, and thrives as a content expert, and establishes a reputation that extends beyond your team or company. Are you comfortable training others, developing strategy, managing projects, or promoting your knowledge and skills as a consultant or influencer? If any or all of these things are more enticing than managing people to reach their goals, you are already well on your way to having the right conditions for advancing your career without supervisory responsibilities. 

An important step to take is to talk early with your current manager. Work together to develop an individual plan for growth in the company. Be explicit about seeking opportunities to grow your responsibilities and develop as a company leader without supervision. Spell out what you think you excel at currently or where you aspire to be a recognized expert. Don’t be afraid to seek support from your manager to consider gaps so you can focus where you increase your expertise. An example may be to propose a compliance area or an innovative program idea you can take responsibility to master and then demonstrate your skills through training others to build capacity or mitigate risk. Don’t miss any opportunities to emphasize how your expertise, influence, or reputation helps the company achieve goals and support the overall mission. You may decide that additional value and career progression makes it necessary to leave your current organization after a period of time and pursue work at a larger company or pursue work as a consultant or independent contractor. Ultimately, the path you choose to advance may not be as clear as you’d like right now but hopefully after some deeper exploration and discussions with your manager you can begin to map out the road ahead. 

Confidentially Yours,


P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Lilly? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.


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