Management Styles – Hands-off

This is the fourth quadrant, where the leader feels low need to control the situation and low interest in the team members.

This is a very dangerous region for leadership behaviours, as there isn’t any coming from the supposed leader, and there is no active encouragement or development of it from subordinates.

There is a high risk of anarchy in such a situation unless individuals are tightly constrained in what they can do.  Process and rules replace leadership, turning staff from human beings into robots. Contact centres, especially in Financial Services, display only too awfully the result.

At best, a Delegative leader:

  • defines the targets, processes, rules and the responsibilities,
  • initially plans and sets up the team’s activities,
  • delegates responsibilities and sets targets,
  • sets up performance monitoring, such as KPIs and BI reporting, and tracks performance,

then steps in only when required.

This can foster mutual respect through expertise, though this is not guaranteed as it’s a cultural thing. Lack of the personal touch can be seen as being elitist, and being unapproachable.

Team respect can only come from the professional competency of this type of leader. This profile is in many cases less able to inspire his teams, to share a vision, so this style is unsuitable for a team with low morale.

It is also unsuitable for dynamic situations, with changing requirements, risks and objectives, as this leadership style requires substantial lead-time to plan and set up a working situation.

A delegative leader with high expectations can work well with experienced and motivated employees, but will fail with less experienced staff who start doubting their own  abilities to perform the job.

More likely is the worst case, the Abdicative leader, who:

  • isolates himself from his teams, with poor communication of background information vital to team spirit (the “Mushroom treatment”), communicating principally by email dictats,
  • focuses on the KPIs, and has no idea how they are being achieved or what to do if they are not,
  • is rigid in his definition of roles and functions, doesn’t have his finger on how his “team” is working, who is delivering what, and who is providing essential leadership in the other quadrants,
  • confuses activity and result, favouring those who seem busy (“hard workers”) over those who are quietly efficient (“clock watchers”),
  • manages activities rather than employees,
  • does not question the existing organization, from which their status is derived.

When turning abdicative, the manager will apply the old adage “First class people promote first class people, second class people promote third class people” to secure his position and avoid competition. He will promote staff with low-ambition and shed employees with high energy and drive, damaging the future of the organization.


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