The Consequences of an Absent Leader

Table with Laptop and Phone

Most of us hate the idea of having a controlling boss that checks in constantly and excessively scrutinizes our work.  In fact, it can be an employee’s worst nightmare as it implies that there is a lack of respect or trust, making employees feel incompetent, insecure, and anxious. You may have worked for a manager that had the senior title and status and therefore the privileges and perks of their level but sadly had little involvement with their team. 

Ultimately your manager plays a huge role in your motivation and engagement levels and therefore has a direct influence on your performance and job satisfaction.  A manager that stays involved through goal setting, coaching, praising and follow up will help retain staff, keep them interested and eventually get much better results.

Characteristics associated with an Absent Leader may include some of the following:

  • Unclear goals, expectations and direction resulting in chaos and confusion
  • Failure to communicate consistently and give feedback which may cause tension and missed expectations
  • Delayed decisions leading to failure and reduced productivity levels
  • Lack of encouragement and motivation resulting in low engagement and increased turnover
  • Low emotional intelligence and inability to show empathy and compassion towards others

The absent leader is often not available or present enough to establish a positive and productive culture or to provide the support and encouragement that employees need which ultimately leads to disengagement or turnover.  Some managers deliberately fail to communicate their whereabouts as they may be concerned about employees slacking off.  While you certainly don’t need to list your every move, transparency is key to effective communication with your team.  It has become vital for managers today to stay involved with employees especially with increased hybrid and remote work schedules now commonplace.  Managers should adapt their leadership styles and become more creative in a post pandemic world to keep employees engaged, involved, and motivated.

Why do some Managers become absent leaders?

Unfortunately, some managers may be highly introverted or genuinely struggle to lead people.  They could be exceptionally good at their field but fail horribly to lead and engage their team.  Those in specialized fields may be overly focused on their own work and as a result neglect their relationship skills.  It’s important that organizations are clear about the individual growth goals of their staff and ensure they have capable leaders that are excited about the prospect of leading a team. Supporting and getting the most from individuals and teams is the most important part of the job for a leader. Some specialists or technical roles are exactly that and those candidates will deliver outstanding results but as soon as you add the people management aspect to their responsibilities they can stumble and fail in relationship building and promoting employee engagement.

What are some of the key leadership traits needed for 2023?

  • Continue to be flexible with remote or hybrid work schedules that can be part of the perks and makes employees want to stay with the company.  This is increasingly important in a very competitive job market.  Many employees will choose work-life balance over hours spent in traffic even if the role pays higher.
  • In today’s ever-evolving technology world, employees expect leaders to be adaptable and willing to keep up with the constant updates and changes in technology.
  • More frequent communication and feedback that leads to strong relationships with team and peers.  Teamwork and collaboration are key to sharing ideas, learning from each other, and working towards common goals.  Millennials thrive on social interaction and a collaborative culture will give them a positive employee experience.  Be available to facilitate conversations and open discussion as well as brainstorming with your team. Encourage and support formal and ad-hoc collaboration.
  • Clearly establish goals and expectations so employees understand how to succeed and be sure there is regular follow up to correct behaviour through additional mentorship and support.
  • Focus on developing and leveraging emotional intelligence for consciously understanding and reading the emotions of others.  Building trust and offering authentic support is essential for effective leadership.
  • Become creative with employee engagement and satisfaction to retain employees and keep them happy.

We may have all experienced a time where we have been micro-managed to the point where we feel we can’t make a move without asking permission or seeking approval. Have you ever had a senior executive ask you to let them know when you are taking lunch every day?  It’s exhausting and the resultant lack of trust can be demoralizing.

As much as we think this is the worst leadership style, the Absent Leader is equally as damaging. Unfortunately, both leadership styles are an open invitation to look up the latest jobs on Indeed and ultimately has a direct impact on the employee’s well-being and effectiveness.

What can you do when you recognize some of these traits of the Absent Leader in your Leadership style?

  • Take a step back and give your staff the opportunity to talk.  Be present in the moment and listen to what they have to say.
  • Realize you are in a position where staff want to be led.  Your employees will respond well to clear direction on where they are headed and be sure to support them along the way.

Leadership skills can be improved but the first step is the realization and acknowledgement of your current flaws and then the willingness to identify and apply the changes needed.  It’s a difficult time to retain good talent and your employees are not going to stick around in a competitive job market if they are miserable and unengaged.  To learn more about how we can provide coaching and support, contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions – (647) 794-5442 or at 

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