Lack of Leadership Hurts

By Bernardus Holtrop on April 27, 2018

Linkage-Leadership-Blog-Holtrop_Bernardus

When I started leading teams as a young consultant, after a short while I thought I had it all figured out. I was clear on the output we were generating, distributed work well, and made sure to pay attention to team members’ development—an early sign of my passion for developing people.

However… something was missing. Actually, a lot was missing. A generous colleague who interviewed my team about my leadership put it in one word: they missed my “umpf.”

What they were really saying is that they were missing inspiration, new challenges, setting a high bar for performance—and that feeling of pride that comes from accomplishing something really hard together.

I was leading from a belief that highly talented people didn’t need much leadership; that they would figure out what to do once they were given a target and some direction on how to achieve it. Maybe I was overcompensating for having experienced micromanagement gone wrong firsthand.

The Absentee Leader

Turns out, I wasn’t alone. In a recent Harvard Business Review article “The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader”, the authors call this absentee leadership. In a recent survey, eight of the top nine complaints of leaders were not about what they did, but what they didn’t do. Moreover, the impact of absentee leadership was more negative and longer lasting than that of destructive leadership.

Our team’s research about what makes great leaders great helped me see much more clearly what I wasn’t doing that my team really needed.

It turns out that the most effective leaders make five commitments to the people they lead: to Inspire, to Engage, to Innovate, to Achieve, and to Become Purposeful. Looking back, I was certainly achieving, but I was not really inspiring or engaging in a way that delighted and excited my team members.

Despite my good effort, I was falling short in the area that mattered the most.

Inspiration, it’s up to you

It took me a few years to realize this, and to get significantly better. Here are a few things that I worked on that you might find useful as you work with your team to inspire greatness this year:

  • Imagine success – In our team meetings, I set aside time for us to talk as a group about what’s inspiring for us as an outcome or vision, before talking about whether it’s feasible or not. Together, we imagine what our clients’ lives will be like when we’re successful, and how that will make us feel.
  • Discuss meaning – As a team, we discuss what’s meaningful and inspiring for each of us in terms of what we work towards and how we work together.
  • Practice authenticity – I have candidly shared my journey to be a more present leader and my attempts to be more aspirational with my team. This helps to create an environment where they are comfortable sharing their own experiences and stories of personal development.

How can you begin your own journey from being an absentee leader to being a purposeful leader? Ask yourself, how can I become more: Inspiring? Engaging? Innovative? Purposeful?

Take note of what comes to mind and share your comments below.

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Executive Development, Leadership Development, Team Effectiveness

About Bernardus Holtrop

Bernardus Holtrop is a Principal Consultant at Linkage. He is an experienced group facilitator and executive coach who works with organizations, both large and small, including many Fortune 100 companies. Bernardus designs leadership development programs and personalized strategies that improve work relationships, cultivate organizational transformation, and deliver bottom line results
3 comments on “Lack of Leadership Hurts
  1. sally verrilli says:

    I LOVE this article! Thank you for writing it. It’s just what I needed to read this morning.

    • Sarah Breigle says:

      Dear Sally,
      Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. I’m glad that it resonated with you.
      Warm Regards,
      Sarah Breigle
      Editor

  2. Danielle Lucido says:

    Excellent insights Bernardus, thank you for sharing this article. Was just thinking about this type of leader the other day.

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