Have you ever felt the ripple effects of passive leadership in your organization? Imagine a coach who never strategizes, critiques, or motivates their team; the results would be disastrous in sports. Yet, in many corporate settings, a similar trend of passive leadership has become all too common. As we advance into more dynamic and challenging business environments, the era of passive leadership is fading, making room for a more engaged and proactive approach. Let's explore why this shift is not just beneficial, but necessary for thriving in today's fast-paced world.

In the sports world, no one questions criticisms from a coach. It’s welcomed and encouraged. The coach is there to guide individuals and their team to victory. The same goes for the team captain, who is elected to inspire the best performances from the other team members, and constantly give feedback to do it. 

Why do we treat leaders differently in other structures? 

In organizations, at least in today’s environment, leaders are criticized when they offer guidance and feedback. The problem, at least in part, is this spread of “terminal niceness” in corporate settings. The pressure to be perceived as nice and likable, and the fear of being canceled, makes us avoid honesty and giving constructive feedback

So, instead, we opt to be overly nice to the point we aren’t helping the very people who depend on us to advance their careers. When we do this, we confuse empathetic leadership with active leadership, choosing a passive route that maintains the structure we’re pretending we want to resist. 

“Terminal niceness” often leads to passive leadership. A passive leader is someone who sees the issues in any given team or workflow and assumes that they will be resolved on their own, through interpersonal communication or through trial and error, for example. Passive leaders are still effective at guiding their teams, but sit on the sideline or delay decision-making when a crisis happens. 

Being a passive leader actually undermines employees’ well-being. It confuses them and wears them down. If you’re not fulfilling your role as a leader, it can create a toxic work environment and cause team members to question their own roles. It can often lead to low morale and force disengagement to fester, especially in a culture of self-managed teams. As a result, problems that started off as inconsequential grow into bigger issues for the team and the organization. 

On the flip side, an active leader takes initiative, communicating with her team effectively and regularly, anticipating problems and offering solutions before they arise. Rather than passively letting issues arise, an active leader works to prevent them. To put it simply, an active leader gets involved.  

Low morale or disengagement doesn’t just go away when left unattended. Instead, it needs to be given attention and actively looked after. If those sentiments are going to be reversed, the change starts at the top. Through uncertain times, people look to their leaders to drive the company culture, to reassure people and to boost morale. At the end of the day, leaders need to lead. 

I work with leadership groups to help them, as a team, feel more prepared to have these conversations and create tangible change in workplace morale. I help executives feel more ready to communicate effectively and lead their teams through uncertain times. Essentially, I help executives become better leaders. 

If you want to learn how to drive positive change, improve morale, and drive positive conversations around workplace culture, book an exploratory call today and learn how I can help you combat feelings of uncertainty and become the best leader you can be.