Last year, my colleague Vince Molinaro wrote a great rant about the 10 worst types of leaders.  You can read the full post here.  When I came across it again, I had the inspiration to write a monthly series on how you and your team can survive under a terrible leader. This is the third post in that series.

The third type of terrible leader Vince describes is the lazy leader.  These are the “leaders who think that their job is to get everyone else to do absolutely everything and don’t work hard themselves.”  You know you’re dealing with one of these when there’s lots of talk-the-talk but no walk-the-walk .

The good news is that lazy leaders give you lots of room to make your mark.  You don’t have to worry about stifling micro-management when you have a lazy leader—that would take WAY too much effort.  That said, there are risks with a lazy leader that can have a negative impact on your work, your career, and your team.

You know me: I’m all about taking personal accountability for the situation you find yourself in. Here are a few steps to reduce the risk of a lazy leader.

Lack of review can lead to poor quality work

If your leader is too lazy to give a thorough review of your work, it could be getting passed up the chain before it’s of sufficient quality. If you get a report or a draft presentation returned with no comments or suggestions, don’t assume it’s because your work is perfect.  Find someone else you trust and ask for an honest appraisal and a few suggestions to make the work better. Otherwise, your reputation is vulnerable.

Work lacks the strategic lens

There is a layer of value your leader is supposed to provide that is over and above the value you add—even when you have done your job really well.  In theory, your manager should have more context, insight from her peers and their departments, and ideally, a more strategic lens than you have from your vantage point.  Ask your leader to provide this context with questions such as “How does this project fit in with other priorities in the company?” If your lazy leader just shrugs her shoulders, seek it out from alternate sources such as connections with her peers or information you’ve gleaned from corporate communications.

You violate your work-life balance standards

A significant risk of having a lazy leader is that you spend an inordinate amount of time picking up the slack. That time inevitably spills over into evenings and weekends where it impacts not only you, but the people you care about.  Lazy leaders are lousy for everyone.  The antidote is to set guidelines for yourself and stick to them. When is it ok to work late, when is it not? Where are you personally exposed so that you need to burn the midnight oil and where will the accountability trail lead directly back to Lazy Larry? Save your energy for the things you legitimately own.

Working for a lazy leader can be easier than working for task master: there’s a lot of leeway when your boss hasn’t been spotted after 4:00 since 1994.  But lazy leaders bring down the quality and threaten the reputations of themselves and everyone on their teams. If you have a lazy leader, put it a little extra effort to make sure you
don’t pay the price.

See other posts in the series

How to work for an incompetent leader

How to work for a wimpy leader

Further Reading

Read the Damn Pre-Read People!

Dealing with a Co-Worker who Doesn’t Pull their Weight

The Secret of Effective Teamwork

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