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Can Doing Nothing be an Act of Leadership?

Leading seems to us to be an action verb. Visionary. Problem solver. Manager. Fire fighter.

As leaders we can feel compelled to build, to fix, to organize.

Very seldom do we give ourselves the latitude to do nothing. We are busy. We are needed. Others rely on us.

There is a shadow side of having our hands in everything. Our actions communicate and when we are in perpetual doing and fixing and solving, the message we may be sending can be:

  • I don’t believe you are capable of handling this situation.
  • You need my wisdom, judgement, action for everything.
  • I can resolve this better.
  • I am indispensable.

And at times, when we spend some much time in the day to day, we can fail to do the more important but less urgent work.

The idea of intentionally doing nothing is counterintuitive. It may strike you as lazy. As failing in your duty. As not leading.

When To Do Nothing

Yet I would propose there are times when, as leaders, we might do nothing.

Here are a few examples:

  • The situation is highly like to resolve itself without our intervention.
  • Others are perfectly capable of doing the right thing without our guidance.
  • Others may grow in skill or confidence if they navigate the solution to the situation.
  • We don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about how to proceed.
  • There are other, more important issues that demand our attention.

Don’t be mistaken. I am not suggesting totally hands off, do nothing leadership. I am merely suggesting the totally hands on all the time and in all situations may not be the right choice. For when we set up our leadership so that EVERYTHING revolves around our actions, our decisions, our guidance – we choke off creativity, we impede others growth and development, we burn out, we grow weary of this very heavy burden we have ourselves created.


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One Response

  1. Kris – great article – well written.

    Follows Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model.

    Happy Easter

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