The effects of bad leadership on team dynamics
We can all recognize the ‘dark side’ of leadership. Yelling, ranting, autocratic, micro manager who is never satisfied and never provides feedback unless it is negative. These volatile, destructive “Leaders” don’t do any leading except to serve as examples of what not to do, and team members focus on staying out of the way, as to not be victim of the wrath of this tyrant.
It’s likely team members have one foot out the door in these cases. They aren’t engaged and are always looking for a new opportunity to get them away from the negative influence of this specific type of manager.
An even more insidious form of leader is the absentee “lazier faire” leader, as defined by Scott Gregory in his Harvard Business Review article The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader. “Absentee leaders are people in leadership roles who are psychologically absent from them. They were promoted into management and enjoy the privileges and rewards of a leadership role but avoid meaningful involvement with their teams. Absentee leadership resembles the concept of rent-seeking in economics — taking value out of an organization without putting value in” (Gregory, 2018).
These fly-by leaders never engage and are rarely, if ever involved. They tend to ignore issues and avoid conflict. They don’t provide direction but worst of all they don’t provide feedback of any kind, so team members rarely know where they stand. When they do offer feedback, it is vague and generic. “The impact of absentee leadership on job satisfaction outlasts the impact of both constructive and overtly destructive forms of leadership. Constructive leadership immediately improves job satisfaction, but the effects dwindle quickly” (Gregory, 2018). Gregory continues, “Absentee leadership creates employee stress, which can lead to poor employee health outcomes and talent drain, which then impact an organization’s bottom line.
To combat this form of leadership from further degrading the team spirit and morale, it is important that the principals of ‘Leading Up’ are exercised.
Steven Matthew Leonard describes how to deal with an absentee leader in his article titled Incompetent in Command: The Crushing Impact of Absentee Leadership in September of 2020.
1) Make sure the leader is clear about your commitment to the company, the goals and objective of the organization.
2) Employ active listening to pick up on the subtle nuisances of the leader’s feedback.
3) Be persistent. If you really want change, you must be steadfast and resilient.
Constructive leadership is key to overall team dynamic health. While it might not be the ‘Obi Wan’ to the absentee ‘Darth Vader’ leader, they can help repair the disturbances in the workforce.
Here are five ways to exercise constructive leadership behaviors to bring balance to your team.
1) Motivate people to actively support others in their career development and growth, as well as encourage people to set their own priorities and allocate time in accordance with a long-term plan.
2) Encourage people to build good personal relationships with others (within the organization) and promote mutual respect of people’s diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.
3) Inspire people to take on challenging tasks with a sense of confidence and to encourage people to pursue interesting projects and opportunities.
4) Motivate people to approach their work with creativity, and inspire people to experiment with innovative solutions to problems.
5) Emphasize the importance of the team, to encourage people to discuss things in a friendly and open manner while stimulating people to think in unique and independent ways.
Personal growth and development come from study and practice. If you are dealing with an absentee style manager within your organization, it’s time to begin to turn them from the dark side. Model the behaviors you desire and provide them practical actionable feedback they can use to improve their skills.
If you are a team member with an absentee leader, it may be time to stand up and be the change you want. If the company goals and vision are powerful enough, they will help you battle through poor or absent leadership to get to a better place in your universe.
Either way, it is in your hands to create change and demonstrate that the force of positive, constructive leadership is strong with you.
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