What is an absentee leader?

An absentee leader is someone in a leadership position who is psychologically absent from their responsibilities. They are known as the "silent killers."

Here are some characteristics of an absentee leader:

  • Psychologically absent from their staff.

  • Take value out of an organization without contributing back.

  • These leaders are laissez-faire (to let people do as they choose)

  • Don't show up to meetings, unresponsive to emails, give zero feedback, and share important information with employees.

  • Seldom engage with staff.

Organizations rarely confront absentee leaders, and if left unaddressed, it can halt succession planning, block potential staff from promoting and cause unproductivity in the workplace. Those who report to them may become frustrated, which negatively impacts the employees and the work environment.


Teams with absent supervisors often feel they have no direction, are unrecognized, neglected, and overlooked without clear goals, guidance, and feedback. Employees don't develop under an absentee leader.

The Destruction of the Absentee Leader!

  • Degrades the employee's job satisfaction

  • May lead to job performance uncertainty

  • Employee's stress levels and talents become drained

As long as the absentee leader has an employee who will pick up the slack, this behavior will continue. The absentee leader enjoys the perks and entitlements of their title but isn't doing the job. This type of leadership style is destructive. The hard-working employees who do the work aren't receiving the support, recognition, or crucial feedback. The absentee leader accepts credit when things are going right and pushes staff blame when things are not.

Suppose you recognize an absentee leader in your organization or within yourself. Here are a few tips to encourage behavioral change in this leadership style.

Companies don't always see the effects of this leadership style until the damage has already occurred.

Takeaway:

Recognize the absentee leader within your organization or inside yourself and address the situation. Employees want a leader who is there for them. Staff follows a leader who will coach, train, motivate, recognize their accomplishments, and help them to succeed.

Have you experienced an absentee leader? If yes, how did it affect the work environment?

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