20 Signs of Leadership Indifference

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.

– – – – –

Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

– – – – –

Also Read:

Great Leadership: Beware of These Nine I’s
Nine I’s and Great Leadership
Nine Roles for Great Leadership

10 Key Lessons On Leading Virtual Teams Effectively

We live in times where more and more work is executed by teams that are geographically distributed. Leading a virtual team, fostering collaboration and binding them to common set of objectives is one of the key challenges for business leaders.

In most of the troubled projects I have seen, the real challenges were not technical/engineering ones but communication/collaboration ones. Having been a part of distributed team and having managed a few projects with virtual teams, here 10 most important lessons I have learned:


  • Share Leadership Responsibilities: Success of distributed team depends largely on leadership model. When team is distributed, leadership responsibilities should also be distributed. Command and control leadership model generally fails.
  • Foster Peer Leadership: It is even more crucial when the team is distributed.
  • Clearly articulate team goals and vision: It helps in aligning the team. When team is driven by the purpose, they are better equipped to take right decisions. The team should also know how their work fits into the larger picture.

Trust and Empowerment

  • Lack of trust is one of the biggest killers in a virtual team environment. They way you manage the team tells a lot about how much you trust them. People will back off the moment they feel that they are not trusted.
  • Don’t get insecure: When a team is away, leaders tend to get insecure and start micro-managing. They just push decisions to their teams, rather than involving them in the decision making. This works against building a culture of trust and empowerment.
  • Be human – people in your virtual team are still human beings who possess a set of important skills, who carry a self-esteem and who are emotional. You can treat them as “resources” or treat them as “human beings” – that choice makes a lot of difference.

Effective Collaboration

  • Even in virtual teams, face to face communication is very crucial. The best way to start a project is to have entire team interact with each other on a one to one basis. Even in virtual setting, it is important that team members know each other well.
  • Establish formal and informal communication rituals to stay constantly connected with the team. Technologies like real time/video chat and phone calls really help in establishing a two way dialogue where people can freely express themselves.
  • Provide clarity to all team members on roles, responsibilities, protocols and basic expectations on communication, deliveries and quality.
  • Have a system that provides clear status of the tasks and results of each team member’s efforts. Central management systems helps everyone stay on the same page. These systems can also be used to automate a lot of communication and collaboration.

– – – – –

Join in the conversation:

Have you been a part of a distributed team? Have you led a virtual team to deliver results to your customers? What best practices would you like to share?

Leadership Mindset in Supporting Improvements

At the core of leadership is ability to support improvements. One of the biggest change when an organization embarks upon a process improvement journey is the change in mindset. While the objectives change,  business leaders tend to cling on to traditional management styles of ‘command and control’.

With ‘command and control’, managers will control everything and people will simply comply. Improvement may still happen, but long term sustainable culture change may not!

Total Quality Management is all about empowering people to participate in the change. It calls for patience, extending help, ask/listen and communicate at all levels. Leaders have to realize that they cannot change people’s behavior unless they change theirs. If they believe in command and control style, the second line leaders will never be able to practice ‘initiative-led’ management style. You see, behaviors from the top trickle down through the organization and at some point, becomes the culture.

Unlike factories, the dividing line between ‘people who think’ and ‘people who do’ has blurred. When dealing with improvement, everyone is equally strong and has equal potential to bring about a change. With empowerment, leaders just ‘unlock’ that potential. That, to me, is the basic of modern day leadership. To empower people, enable them, believe that they are powerful, support them and truly ‘unlock’ their potential.

Working on organizational process improvement is a great way to practice these fundamentals of leadership and deliver “value” to business, people therein and the customers.

So key questions as you end this week:

  • What are you improving upon at workplace?
  • Who are you supporting, enabling and empowering?


QAspire Blog was selected as one of the Top 50 Career Resources under “Leadership” category by eCollegeFinder. Recognitions like these not only encourage but also raise the bar. I am both proud and happy.

You must also read: Kurt Harden’s life lessons at Cultural Offering Blog and simply brilliant Nicholas Bate’s Pocket Calculator for Kickstarting Change.