What’s it Look Like When Leaders Don’t Lead?


Nothing hurts an organization more than a leader who doesn’t lead. Where there is no vision the people perish, the Scripture says, and where there’s no action the people pay the price. It isn’t pretty.

When leaders don’t lead several things inexorably result:

No one knows where the organization is going. Indeed, it’s probably going nowhere but backwards, down, or over the edge. No vision, a limited vision, or an unclear vision breed uncertainty, insecurity, ineffectiveness, lack of productivity, declining excellence.

The organization is adrift. You can see it in the uncut grass and feel it in the organizational culture.

Key decisions remain undecided. No one pulls the trigger. Risk aversion reigns supreme.

The organization’s Board is ossifying. If a leader isn’t leading the organization’s Board is part of the problem. It’s not holding the leader accountable and it’s turning in on itself.

The budget is unfocused and therefore inefficient. Resources are misspent. Personnel worry more about how they can protect what they have rather than how they can advance the organization’s mission.

Personnel lack incentive and accountability. No one is energizing them, mentoring or monitoring them, rewarding them.

The best and the brightest personnel leave. People with talent and initiative want to follow people with the same. They want to go and grow, not muddle through.

Organizational assets erode. Revenues inevitably diminish. Endowments and property are attached. Operating deficits and accumulated operating debt increase.

Power bases develop among personnel. Nature abhors a vacuum, they say, and this maxim is proven once again. When leaders don’t lead somebody else tries to do so, however unwise this may be. “Camps” develop within the organization. People don’t pull together; they pull apart.

When leaders don’t lead the organization becomes one of the walking dead. It certainly isn’t thriving and in time is barely surviving.

Leaders who don’t lead, for whatever reasons, are still responsible and should be accountable. It sounds harsh, but too much is at stake. Leaders need to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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