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Permissive leaders make people unproductive and unhappy

Permissive Leaders Make People Unproductive AND Unhappy

I’ve seen the devastating effects of laissez-faire leaders. They seem to think that if you keep people happy, they’ll naturally give you their best work. In my experience, this is almost never the case.

You’ll recognize a permissive or weak leader because they’ll verbalize it in some pretty standard ways. Just make a little note here and check off whether or not you say these things, either to yourself or to other people:

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”

  • Now I actually agree with this one because what you end up with is an infestation of flies

“Keeping your people happy is really important if you want to get the best out of them”

  • I think we’ve sort of covered off on that one already

“I can’t discipline Jeff, even though he’s performing poorly, because he’ll become demotivated.”

  • Think about what happens to your good people if you don’t deal with under-performers like Jeff. This is still one of the top reasons why your good people leave; because leaders don’t deal with under-performers.

I had an executive who worked for me a little while back who was the poster child for permissive leadership. She would constantly shower her team with superlatives: you’re wonderful, amazing, stupendous, brilliant. It was basically a walking thesaurus of sunshine and rainbows.

The only problem was, it was complete bullsh!t… and her team knew all too well the areas in which they weren’t achieving results or performing the way they should.

So, rather than motivating them, they saw it as disingenuous and insincere.

And it also created another related issue. If you’ve lavished someone with effusive praise when they didn’t deserve it, and then you have to confront them about poor performance or behavior, you’ve got nowhere to go—you’ve snookered yourself.

The dissonance that this creates destroys any semblance of trust and respect that the team might have had for that leader.

The permissive leader knows this, which is another reason why they avoid challenging, coaching, and confronting… they intuitively feel that dissonance too, and the culture it creates is horrendous.

I had a number of leaders at lower levels in CS Energy who either couldn’t understand or chose not to understand what a high-performance, constructive culture actually was.

I’d hear leaders say things like, “We can’t say anything negative to Jodie because we’re trying to build a constructive culture.” What bullish!t.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing soft, permissive, or laissez-faire about a constructive culture. That type of culture is only built when a leader demands the best from every individual in the team, and is prepared to stretch their people to achieve things they never thought they could.

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