Lazy Leadership

Posted by on May 1, 2005 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2005

It’s not enough to hold a leadership position – you must live up to the responsibilities of the job. Employers are relying upon you to chart the course that will lead to the success of your department, which reflects positively on the company, but your staff needs your guidance and direction to do this. Being a leader means having vision and the courage to be at the helm. It means being a step ahead, often requiring you to be in the office before others and probably still there wrapping things up after they leave. Many managers are guilty of lazy leadership – believing that since they have “made it,” that they’re entitled to enjoy the privileges of the job, which some interpret as being able to arrive late, do less, and leave early. If you’re one of these lazy leaders, take a moment to examine why.

  • In Over Your Head?

Be honest with yourself. Did you make it into this job because of seniority or by default because of the way promotions are handled at your company? Many people understandably want the increased salary and status that comes with being in a leadership position, but may not have sufficient experience, training, or emotional moxie to really do the job. This negatively affects your employees, but it also affects you too. Feelings of anxiety about what new task will confront you that you can’t handle, feelings of failure, and eventually feelings of dread about even going to work because, inwardly, you know you’re not doing a good job. These feelings typically intensify on Sunday night as you prepare for the workweek ahead. Soon you’ll start calling in on Mondays to avoid going to work altogether. When you do make it in, it’s likely you’re latching on to the more insignificant tasks because they’re manageable and help you feel like you’re accomplishing something. However, the bulk of your responsibilities and the leadership you should be providing to your staff are likely going by the wayside. Their performance declines because they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing, and yours does too as you fail to be able to handle the breadth of your job and start showing up late, leaving early, and generally finding all kinds of reasons to spend little time at the office. Come to terms with the fact that this position may not be for you and, unless you’re willing to get a lot of coaching and increased training, it may be time for you to pursue an alternative job that you can do well and that will restore your ability to feel good about yourself.

  • Burned Out?

After years of leading the charge, you simply may want to follow for a while. Let someone else have the headaches. Having the buck stop with you for all that goes on with a department is a taxing responsibility. One that takes its toll on everyone after a while. Also, employees today have multifaceted life stresses that make their way onto the job and become a challenge. This can be a significant drain for anybody. Leaders must have high energy and stamina, be emotionally stable themselves, and sufficiently tough-minded to weather the storms without sinking. Though it certainly will help you to take a day off here and there to de-stress and rejuvenate, you may feel the need to move on to a different position after a while. Some people make the decision to step out of management and forego leadership responsibilities altogether. Others find that moving into a less challenging leadership capacity, perhaps with a smaller span of control, feels more manageable and enables them to do a better job. Understand that usually there are alternatives and that it’s better to move on than to allow yourself to drown.

  • Oblivious to the Fact that You’re Having Problems?

This one can be tough to crack. You may feel you’re doing a wonderful job and have the most motivated team in the company, only to learn one day that you are by far considered the worst. How does this happen? Leaders must have a healthy dose of ego, self-confidence, and steadfastness to take charge of others and to forge ahead in uncharted territory. This can go too far, however, and result in denial about faults and resistance to change. Your staff may be trying hard to get your attention and to offer recommendations, but if you feel you know it all or are too absorbed with your own needs you will either ignore them intentionally or, perhaps worse yet, fail to see all the warning signs that indicate that your leadership is lacking and that the morale and performance of your department are low. Since you may not be able to rely on yourself to pick up on this, put a system in place that will do it for you. Implement a procedure for obtaining feedback from your staff about the way things are going in general and about your performance in particular. Even when you use an anonymous questionnaire, for example, you must assure them that there will be no repercussions for their honest assessment of how you’re doing your job and you must truly keep your word. This is essential, because you’re likely to get poor ratings from all of them in certain areas. If you can take the heat, try to do these feedback sessions in person since you probably haven’t been holding staff meetings anyway, need to improve office communications, and this will help you to fully understand a broad range of concerns and force you to sensitize yourself to such issues in the future.

Get Help

Leadership can be lazy and lacking for many reasons. Take a frank look at your own performance to see if improvements are necessary. Mentoring can help, but you probably will need more targeted, ongoing coaching to address the problems you’re experiencing, so get the help you need. There are executive coaches that have special expertise in specific industries, and those whose management experience is more broad-based. If your problems persist and it’s clear that your personality or other personal issues are the cause of your difficulties, ask your coach to refer you to a colleague with professional mental health training. This will help you to manage the stress of these types of jobs better and unload any emotional baggage that’s getting in your way. You’ll like yourself better and your staff will too.


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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