Is 'Absentee Leadership' Sucking the Life Out of Your Company?

BY Kathy Crosett
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We all have our own version of nightmare boss stories. No doubt your leadership team has identified and cleared those people out of your organization. There’s another type of boss, dubbed the ‘absentee leader’ by Scott Gregory. This individual could be wreaking havoc on your employees. Here’s how to identify these leaders and how to avoid putting them into management roles.

Not everyone is interested in doing what it takes to be a good manager. Some folks like the perks that come with the title – extra pay, access to better benefits, more travel and meals out with the leadership team. Then there’s that other part. Good managers also interact regularly with their team members. They watch for opportunities to praise employees. They also need to identify areas where a specific team member needs to improve skills. Regularly touching base requires being organized, which also requires spending time on developing plans for each employee. One of the toughest parts of the role for many managers is having a difficult conversation with employees who need to pick up their work pace or improve their output.

Absentee leaders engage in few of these activities. They position themselves as being too busy with important leadership "stuff" to actually bother interacting with their employees. This behavior leaves employees to flounder. Gregory cites research which reveals that absentee leadership “degrades subordinates’ job satisfaction for at least two years” after it is discovered and corrected. While absentee leaders are floating above their responsibilities, their team members are arguing, bullying each other, and generally developing an apathetic attitude toward work.

Your organization can’t afford this turmoil. One way to be sure this doesn’t happen in your workplace is to screen internal candidates for management roles. Don’t fall into the trap of promoting people just because they’re doing a great job in their current position. An excellent software developer doesn’t always make an excellent manager.

In addition, your managers should be held to specific metrics that show their team engagement activities. Are their employees achieving goals that were set? Do they promote their subordinates, encourage them to develop their career skills? If you don’t get a positive answer to these questions, put your absentee leaders through more training or consider moving them into non-​management positions.