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Leadership void is much more common than we want to admit. In fact, I think it is the norm.
Some voids are caused by poor leaders who provide little vision or direction.
Others are caused by transitions in roles (esp for your leaders) and the inability for overall leadership to define issues and set a strategy.
Either way – as John Maxwell puts it – “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Unfortunately – even if you are a leader – you are often impacted by the leadership above you. You get stuck waiting for their direction – and in the meantime, you fail to provide direction to those who report to you. You, therefore, become a bad leader. (I have been here many times myself)
So no matter your role or the reason – leadership void is the norm – not the exception. Here are some things to do.
How to Lead at Work When There is a Leadership Void (Podcast Outline)
The Bold Approach
- Engage the leader. Ask them what is going on. Politely let them know you see a void, and things are not working.
You might find
- That something big is going on – such as a merger or acquisition or internal flopping about. If this is the case – ask for guidance about how you can help.
- The leader is clueless and thinks they are doing a good job. In this case – tread lightly. Ask for how you can help them and make suggestions. (Personally, I tend to be more blunt – but a risky move to make since the leader – albeit ineffective – still has power)
- The leader is leading – but not communicating. (We can argue if they are truly leading but for now – what can you do?) In this case, let them know how people feel. Ask them to be bolder in communicating facts and vision. Volunteer to help set up town hall-style meetings or other forms of communication to get the word out. In leadership, what is not said is often more powerful than what is said.
- The leader knows he or she is ineffective and working on a solution. In a few instances, I have found this leader willing to talk to me, ask my input, and even ask for help leading. But be careful getting too close or assuming you are on the winning path – this leader is often on his or her way out – even if they do not know it yet. You likely cannot save them.
2. Fill the void. If you do not, someone else will. So it might as well be you. I know you cannot declare yourself a leader, but you can get organized and control your own areas. The best approach to take here is to identify the major players on the team and talk to them one-on-one about plans. Do not talk about the leadership void – instead, talk about your role as a team.
Shoot for pulling the major players together to come up with a plan.
Avoid the gossip about the leadership void by taking the high road – “the leader is busy, and it is our job to do this – not his/hers.”
The key is to not lead with power – but lead with influence – asking others’ help and working as a team.
The truth is – most people do not want to lead and will be happy you have stepped up to help. Maybe even the boss will like it and join your team.
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