Managerial incompetence can take many forms, but research shows that one insidious kind is “absentee leadership”, sometimes known as avoidant leadership. Absentee leaders inhabit the roles of leaders, accepting the perks and rewards, but they avoid meaningful engagement with their teams and add little or no value.
Absentee leaders take a laissez-faire approach to leadership, but if you think having a boss who ignores you might have its upsides, think again. A 2015 survey of 1,000 employees showed that eight out of nine complaints were about what bosses didn’t do. In fact, being ignored by your boss can be more alienating than being treated poorly. The impact of absentee leadership degrades employee satisfaction over a long period of time. It also leads to role ambiguity (with no one sure who is responsible for what) and increased bullying by team members.
Absentee leaders can be hard to weed out: Many organizations don’t confront them because they have other bad managers whose behavior is more egregious. However, Scott Gregory, CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, calls avoidant leaders “silent organizational killers.” Left unchecked, he adds, absentee leaders clog an organization’s succession arteries, blocking potentially more effective people from moving into important roles while adding little to productivity”.
Your organization may be unaware of its absentee leaders because they are good at flying under the radar. But over time, organizations with the best leaders will win. Reviewing your organization’s management positions for absentee leaders, and doing something about them, can improve your talent arsenal.
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