Blog #4: Active vs. Passive Leadership

One thing I’ve observed throughout my time at The Roosevelt Group (and I believe this applies to life in general) is that people working within groups often fall into what I like to call the passivity trap. When people who are relatively new to working with one another in a professional environment are presented with a task they often do not take a stance on how they believe the task should be executed (they adopt a passive position). People act passive in an effort to seem reasonable, accommodating, and professional. This sort of behavior is toxic for a number of reasons: Firstly, it seriously undermines productivity because no opinions and no active leadership, often times leads to no decisions. If everyone is willing to just “go with the flow” then the flow won’t lead anywhere. Secondly, it creates an unequal power dynamic where the one person brave enough to propose a plan of action ends up wielding a disproportionate amount of informal power in comparison to the rest of the members of his or her group who chose to remain passive. This unequal group power dynamic is an incubator for resentment, which reveals itself at some point later in the future. Thirdly, a diversity of perspectives and opinions tends to lead to better outcomes and decisions and with only one or very few opinions, there is no diversity of viewpoints at all. In order to be successful, leaders have to solicit active participation on the part of their team members and team members have to understand that they have to be willing to provide input throughout the process. Also to be blunt, if a team member has nothing to contribute or is unwilling to offer his or her input on anything, then what place does he or she even have on the team?

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