Byron's Babbles

Lazy Leaders


Hoosier Academies Focused Leader Academy Graphic by Mike Fleisch

 As seems to be normal for me, I have coined another phrase that seems to be sticking. Actually, I guess it is two phrases: “Lazy Leaders” & “Lazy Leadership.” I began using these terms to describe leaders and leadership practices describing leaders who choose to blame their superiors or the organization they serve for decisions, processes, procedures, initiatives, or anything else. These terms could also be applied to a leader who assumes what the answer is without investigating, does not delegate (particularly to young developing leaders), gives up after the first try, does not develop future leaders or the leadership bench, does not explain why, or avoids conflict or discourse. Let me give you an example: imagine with me that you are the leader of a team of widget makers. Your team would really like to change one part of the way your organization makes widgets. A lazy leader would say things like: “that’s not the Widgets USA, Inc. way of doing this,” or ” my supervisor will never let us change that,” or “this doesn’t fit the Widget USA model.” Are you catching my drift here? This lazy leader does not want to do the work of championing her team member’s idea to see if it might actually be something that would improve the widget itself or Widget USA, Inc. as an organization.

I have seen this so many times in many organizations and in my own industry as a school leader. As a person who has come in to help school teams turn schools around, I have heard so many teacher leaders say, “we were always told this idea does not fit the model.” Then when I ask the question of who said that, we find that no one did except the lazy leader who did not want to go to the trouble of making the change or explaining (selling) the change throughout the organization. 

Lazy leadership really goes beyond the example of the widget itself. Probably the worst effect of lazy leaders and lazy leadership is on the organization’s culture. Imagine a culture where you are always told, “no, we can’t do this or change that because…” At some point you would just decide that your knowledge was irrelevant. We know that this would then translate to the most important component of employee satisfaction – engagement. Research tells us that the happiest employees and the ones that stay with organizations the longest are the ones that truly believe they are valued and making a difference. These same employees have been empowered and have a clearly defined role in carrying out the vision and mission of the organization. Research tells us that this level of enagagement is much more important than even salaries.

 Lazy leaders may just be one of the biggest crushers of culture there is. So, how do we keep ourselves from falling into the lazy leadership trap? You are caught in the quick sand of lazy leadership if you catch yourself telling one of your team members that your superior will never agree to a change suggested by someone on your team without trying to lobby for the change. Furthermore, let’s do a Jeff Foxworthy parody. 

“You might be a lazy leader if…

  1. You move on with a decision without finding out the real answers.
  2. You don’t delegate because you don’t want to have to help others hone and develop their skills.
  3. You delegate by “dumping and running.” What I call “relegating.” You have to help people know the vision, understand a win, and stay close enough in case they need you again. New leaders are developed, loyalty is gained, and teams are made more effective through delegation.
  4. You give up after the first try. No one likes to fail. Sometimes it’s easier to scrap a dream and start over rather than fight through the messiness and even embarrassment of picking up the pieces of a broken dream, but if the dream was valid the first time, it probably has some validity today.
  5. You don’t invest in the young and up-and-coming leaders. There’s the whole generational gap — differences in values, communication styles, expectations, etc. It would be easier to surround ourselves with all like-minded people, but who wins with that approach — especially long-term?
  6. You settle for mediocre performance. It’s more difficult to push for excellence. Average results come with average efforts. It’s the hard work and the final efforts that produce the best results. 
  7. You don’t explain “why. “Just do what I say” leadership saves a lot of the leader’s time. If you don’t explain what’s in your head — just tell people what to do — You maybe get to do more of what you want to do. The problem is, however, you will have a bunch of pawns on the team and one disrespected, ineffective and unprotected king (lazy leader). (And, being “king” is not a good leadership style by the way.) Continually casting the vision and connecting the dots is often the harder work, but necessary for the best results in leadership.
  8. You avoid any kind of discourse. If there was only answer, solution, or innovation who needs a leader? 

So, let’s get out there and excercise our leadership muscles and not be lazy!


One Response

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  1. Getting Nowhere! | Byron's Babbles said, on August 20, 2016 at 11:52 am

    […] time or another. Either as the leader, or one of the followers. This is something I have called Lazy Leadership. You can read about it here. The big thing to keep in mind here is to avoid blindly, without […]


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