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Leader Wannabe
Mal: You wanna run this ship?
Jayne: Yes.
(Beat)

Who doesn't want to be The Leader? Your team/army/country listens to you and respects you, you're the one to come up with the team's attack plan, and when all of you get publicly recognized, you get most or all of the credit for saving the day because you're the "face" of the team. Because of these perks, many people desperately want to be The Leader of their team.

Those aren't, however, the only reasons a character wants to be The Leader. There are times when a character resents the actual leader of the group, either due to an ego issue or due to justified resentment of The Leader's methods. The Lancer is likely to be a Leader Wannabe, because of his position on the team. Other times the Lancer doesn't especially want to lead but the Leader assumes he does, causing the Leader to watch his back unnecessarily.

This trope often manifests as the character declaring himself the leader of whatever group he wants to lead, but no one acknowledges him, often because he either annoying, does nothing to contribute, or a combination of the two. They will often be a Miles Gloriosus.

A Super Trope to The Starscream.

A Sister Trope to The Team Wannabe.

Compare Unfit for Greatness, contrast Reluctant Ruler.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Jason, the Lancer to Mark in Battle of the Planets, is more than a little annoyed that Mark is the leader instead of him.
  • Sasuke Uchiha in the latter half of Part II in Naruto. If he's not abandoning his teammates for his own goals, proclaiming he'll be Hokage without listening to anyone else, and finally panicking when Obito tries a Total Party Kill and decides to abandon everyone else but Naruto and Jugo to sacrifice one of his snakes in the process. It becomes abundantly clear the leader role isn't what he's able to do.
  • Raye in the dubbed version of Sailor Moon would take any chance to complain that Serena didn't deserve to be leader of the Sailor Scouts and try to take over the position herself. This runs a strong contrast to the original Rei, who simply pushed harder for Usagi to stop flaking and goofing off.

Comics

Film
  • Serenity. Jayne tries this at one point when he's disgusted with Mal's leadership, providing the page quote above.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When Butch and the Kid return to the Hole in the Wall Gang they find that Harvey wants to take over from Butch. Harvey challenges Butch to a fight, but Butch takes him out with a surprise Groin Attack.

Literature
  • From The Taggerung, Gruven Zann wants to earn the eponymous title, and tries to justify that claim by boasting that he killed the previous Taggerung. This ends up backfiring, as he is surrounded by a tribe of vicious bandits who knew the previous Taggerung and know that there is no way in hell Gruven could have killed him. Gruven ends up getting killed by the bandits, who- unlike him- are actually good at fighting.
  • In Warrior Cats, many young cats claim they want to be leader someday, though most of them are just happy to be warriors when they become older. The most notable example of a cat wishing to become leader is the first series' Big Bad: he attempts to secretly kill the Clan leader in order to become leader himself - as second-in-command, he gets the position if she dies.

Live Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: After Harmony & Spike break up, Harm decides to become the leader of a vampire den of her own. Upon hearing about this:
    Buffy: Harmony has minions?
  • Sky from Power Rangers S.P.D.. His goal is to become the Red Ranger, the leader of the Power Rangers. He finally achieves this in the finale.
  • In Justified Devil is The Dragon to Boyd Crowder. Ehen Boyd goes to prison for assaulting a US Marshall, Devil decides that it is his time to be in charge of the gang. However, Boyd does not plan to be in prison for long and left precise instructions about what is to be done in his absence. Boyd's girlfriend Ava tries to remind Devil of this but Devil refuses to take orders from a woman even if she is speaking for Boyd. Ava refuses to be disrespected and corrects Devil's attitude by hitting him in the face with a frying pan. When Boyd gets out and takes back control of the gang Devil becomes The Starscream and tries to take over by killing Boyd.
  • In an episode of Leverage Hardison decides that he would like to in charge of a con for once. He threatens to go on strike if he is not given a chance so the group makes him temporary leader. He approaches the con as if he was designing a video game and has great initial success but ultimately he overcomplicates things and it almost blows up in his face.
  • On M*A*S*H, Frank Burns often would covet being the CO, and would thus relish the times when (as 2nd in command) he would be temporarily put into command (his underlings, not so much).

Video Games
  • In Sonic Rush Adventure, Marine thinks of herself as being the leader of the heroes, but everyone else thinks of her as being The Load.
  • Junpei from Persona 3 is jealous of the main character after he becomes the leader of the group because he's the only one who can actually summon his persona at the time.
  • Lily in The Walking Dead attempts to lead the group, but most of the survivors, except her father Larry, listen to Kenny instead when it comes to important issues or life-threatening situations.
  • Sten becomes this for a moment in Dragon Age: Origins, when he confronts the Warden before going into the village of Haven and claims he is taking control of the party. He does this because he's of the opinion that you drifted too far away from your original goal of stopping the Blight. Dueling (and winning) puts him back on track. Averted if his approval is high enough, however, in which case he will simply state his opinion and leave it at that.

Web Animation
  • Weiss, in the first volume of RWBY, tries to get herself declared leader of the team. She fails because none of her teammates even like her- much less follow orders from her- and Professor Port recognizes that it is caused by her ego and persuades her to drop it. Unusually for the trope, Weiss is partly justified in her rebellion (Ruby being an inexperienced goofball who slacks off in class) and both girls end up learning that leadership has to be earned, not demanded.

Web Comics
  • Karkat in Homestuck decides to be the leader of the trolls' session, mainly because he wants to feel important, possibly also because he's too high-strung to leave bad enough alone. Despite how much he talks about being the leader, the fact is everyone mostly just does whatever bullshit they'd have done anyway and doesn't really follow his directions any more than anyone else's.

Western Animation
  • Numbuh Four of Codename: Kids Next Door wants to be the leader of Sector V, as such, he often wants to pounce onto being The Leader when Numbuh One is absent or busy.
  • Jafar in Aladdin.
    • The TV series had Abis Mal, who often plots to become sultan - apparently just to wear the Sultan's Nice Hat.
  • Buttercup of The Powerpuff Girls believes sometimes that she should be the leader instead of Blossom.
  • Texas in Motorcity, while not really resentful of Mike Chilton, believes he should be (or believes he ''is'') the leader. This is notable in "Texas-ify It" and "Threat Level: Texas!" the latter being a Recap Episode in which he claims to have been responsible for several of Mike's accomplishments.
  • In the first season of Total Drama Island, Heather was this. It probably would have gone better if she didn't treat all her teammates like crap.

I Just Want to Be SpecialThe Wannabe IndexThe Obi-Wannabe
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