One of my consistent observation is: “Indifference is the enemy of great leadership.” Indifferent leaders make a statement, “I don’t care” through their thoughts, words and actions.
Indifference in leadership can manifest itself in one (or many) of the following ways:
1. They are unable to decide: In difficult situations, people look for leaders to take decisions. Indifferent leaders rely too much on external validation before they decide. Sometimes, they also fall in trap on not deciding on purpose or delaying decisions.
2. They may have a vision but lack execution: Leaders are judged by just two factors: Productivity of a leader’s team (what they deliver and how qualitatively?) and by their people (are they learning, growing and becoming more valuable?). No execution = No results = No leadership.
3. They operate out of fear: They take decisions with an objective of covering all their bases to avoid blame and criticism. Fear paralyzes them and keeps them away from taking action.
4. They are not intentional about helping others: Helping others in getting stuff done starts with an intent. Leaders who try to help others without this intention, required knowledge and courage create more roadblocks than eliminating them.
5. They don’t accept what they don’t know: Indifferent leaders are unaware of where they can really add value and things they don’t know anything about. They reveal their indifference when they try hard to show that they do know.
6. Worst yet, they don’t attempt to learn: Not knowing is one thing and that is fine. We all take up higher roles when we may not be capable at some point. But we only grow when we try hard to learn quickly and be aware.
7. They don’t get into details: When leaders care about work, they also care about details that make up the work. Indifferent leaders talk broad but fail to get into details when required. They operate at a superfluous level.
8. They fail to ask: Questions reveal a leader. Indifferent leaders simply don’t ask; or if they do; they don’t ask right questions.
9. They don’t keep their promises: They say they will do something and then don’t do it. They care more about giving tall promises without worrying about keeping them. This alienates people more quickly than anything else.
10. They ignore the context: They constantly carry pride of their past accomplishments and keep harping about it. They fail to understand the current context of their work.
11. They focus on process more than people: For an indifferent leader, process is a great tool to hide behind. They will go by the books and push compliance at the cost of motivation.
12. They don’t get results, or get them in a wrong way: When a leader operates with an indifferent attitude, their value addition is not clearly visible. Even if they do achieve results, they adopt wrong ways to get to those results.
13. They excessively use their positional power: A leader’s position only shows that they have higher visibility (and ability) to get things done. Indifferent leaders use their positions to push their priorities without empathizing with others. When you have to show that you are powerful, you are not.
14. They look at people through their position in the pecking order: They treat people differently based on their position in a top-down pyramid. They treat those who they fear differently than those who fall under them.
15. They take credit for the hard work done by someone else: Great leaders share credits generously because they care for people. Indifferent people do exactly the opposite.
16. They fail at basics of communication: They don’t listen; interrupt when others are talking. They don’t talk enough when they are required to. They come to meetings unprepared. They fail to set the context and build perspectives. Their body language shows that they don’t care. They talk too much on things that don’t really matter to others.
17. They tolerate low performance: and when they do that, they undermine those who really perform. This is the highest form of indifference that leads to lower morale and active disengagement.
18. They force change: They initiate changes often without thinking through the immediate implications of change. On top of that, they force change and expect people to adapt at very short notices. They often associate penalties for not adapting quickly.
19. They blindly push the priorities given to them by their bosses: Instead of explaining the rationale’ behind a certain decision or priority, they end up saying, “Boss wants it, so we have to do it.” They lack courage to question their bosses and then fail to command respect from their team members.
20. They keep denying reality: Denying the reality does not change it. Indifferent leaders don’t care for feedback from their peers. They don’t share feedback often. They use their self-derived versions of reality to hide from the real.
Your thoughts? Share them in comments.
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