Abdicator: A Brief Guide to Bad Leadership

What is an Abdicator?

Have you ever thought about the kind of leader you DON’T want to be? (Hint: You don’t want to be an abdicator)

I have. And I think about it often. I want to be a leader who is intentional in every circle of influence, whether it’s my team, my family, my company, or in my community.

The one type of leader I don’t want to be…

…is an abdicator.

To abdicate means: “to renounce or relinquish a throne, right, power, claim, responsibility, or the like.”

Basically, it means to abandon.

Have you ever gone to restaurant, retail store, or government office and see employees who were completely “abandoning” their duties? As if they didn’t care about the work they were (supposed to be) doing? That’s abdication.

Abdicators create a culture of apathy and low expectations, and in addition to keeping an organization in maintenance mode, it is just flat out boring!

Anatomy of An Abdicator

Here are 3 Reasons Leaders Abdicate

1. They themselves are not being challenged

Someone is allowing the abdicator to function as a laissez-faire leader.

The solution if you are overseeing an abdicator is to increase challenge! Help them set goals and “get after it”!

2. They don’t know what to do

When I function as an abdicator, it’s because I simply don’t know what to do. I’m stuck. I’m at a place I haven’t been before and my creative solutions aren’t working.

The solution is to ask for help. I’ve never been afraid to ask for help and people who have managed me have never held my lack of knowledge against me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. They are wounded

Sometimes we know what to do, but because of some emotional or relational challenge, they are sidelined. Fear and anxiety can cause us to do nothing.

The solution is to have that tough conversation with a trusted friend and be made well.

2 Ways to Thrive When Your Boss is an Abdicator

So let’s assume your boss is hands off.

You’ve worked for the micro-manager and couldn’t stand that, but now you’ve got the other extreme; Alex the Abdicator (roll villain music). Alex the abdicator says hello on his way in, goodbye on his way out, and little to nothing in the middle. No initiation of input, support, challenge, or helping you go the next level.

2 Ways to Thrive When Your Boss is an Abdicator

Worse yet, when you approach Alex for a solution, he either doesn’t know or defaults to what you already knew or thought. The bar is so low that you can cut the apathy and low expectations with a knife.

If that is your environment, it’s hard to blame you for complaining but I can offer you a better way.

1. Embrace this Leadership Style

Abdicator style leadership (AKA Laissez-Faire leadership) is considered to be a hands-off form of leadership. You’ve been looking at it as non-leadership, but to make the best of your situation, embrace the freedom and permission by viewing this as a leadership style.

No it’s not ideal but it does allow for a couple of things to happen.

First: You get to set the direction! Go for it! Test the boundaries of Alex’s kingdom. Pick up the pace, be the change, and see how far you can extend your influence. (Lest you be found to be an abdicator!)

Second: Spend time on self-leadership. When you come up against a wall in your leadership, embrace the challenge of researching or identifying others who can help lead you to breakthrough understanding.

You can actually be having a lot more fun that you think right now.

2. Don’t Try to Change Alex, Wait Until He/She Initiates Toward You

Some of you may be wasting time attempting to change the abdicator. If you’ve been up to bat three times with support and challenge, I’m saying you’re out.

Stop trying to change Alex, do your thing, and wait until he/she softens and begins to pursue you.

It will happen. Wait for it.

I’m not guaranteeing that your increased influence will be met with a celebratory party, but you may be surprised.

When your colleagues begin pursuing you for input and speak of your competency and credibility, you may have awakened Alex from his/her slump.

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