This paper is a starting point in work that we hope, indeed are certain, will lead to a better understanding of the respective national context for leadership succession in Ireland and Canada while also contributing to the international perspective. Specifically, we are investigating the reasons why teachers trained in school leadership, possessing the qualifications and attributes needed to assume leadership positions, are not applying for the principalship. We call these teachers ‘reluctant leaders’. We hope that by investigating the factors which are inhibiting them from going forward for promotion we may illuminate solutions to what is becoming a crisis in many educational systems. © 2011 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.