A little bit of practical inspiration on… lazy leadership vs gritty leadership

Practical Inspiration Publishing
3 min readApr 28, 2021

A guest post by Ian Windle

Leadership is not obvious to many of us. How we act (not what we say) will make the difference to staff motivation and engagement, lead to changes in productivity and innovation and critically affect our credibility and success as a leader.

Lazy leadership is selfish.

I first found myself using the phrase ‘lazy leader’ when talking about the coffee station conversation. It’s Monday morning and after you’ve opened your laptop, you go to the office coffee area. Your boss is there getting a coffee. She asks: “How was your weekend?”

You start telling her about the long walk with your wife on Saturday, a trip to the local pub with friends in the evening and a game of golf on Sunday morning. Then you realise that your boss isn’t listening. She has already engaged with the next person in the kitchen, has left, or is looking at a stream of emails on her phone.

This is lazy leadership. This scenario, like many during every day, provides a great opportunity to make an impact on your people. What’s happened in this scenario is that the boss has now lost credibility. She has shown she doesn’t care and has little interest in you. The only way this scenario changes is if the boss takes the time to understand what your interests are and then really listens and is present. Think about someone who works for you. Now answer a few questions to see how well you know them. What’s their favourite drink? Where is their favourite holiday destination? What are the names of their children?

I define lazy leadership as taking the easy course of action, accepting the status quo and not rocking the boat. The definition of lazy is: “Unwilling to work or use energy or make an effort. Inactivity.”

Here are my top three examples of lazy leadership, which I have contrasted with gritty leadership. Ben Wales and I discuss these further in episode 10 of the Gritty Leaders Club podcast:

  1. Lazy leaders avoid conflict and use HR or colleagues to have conversations with their people. Gritty leaders address the shortcomings of the team member face to face with an honest conversation in a timely fashion, using specific examples.
  2. Lazy leaders avoid challenge and conflict at all costs. Gritty leaders challenge openly in meetings, always seeking to discuss the most important issues. Gritty leaders will always challenge in a way that shows they care for the individual.
  3. Lazy leaders recruit people less able than themselves for fear of being challenged. Gritty leaders always recruit people better than themselves for key roles around them where they have shortcomings.

Lazy leadership is selfish. It is about the leader not showing up, not challenging, not pushing outside his or her own comfort zone. That, in turn, means that people don’t get challenged and stretched. They don’t get the chance to grow, develop and become fulfilled at work. Lazy leadership is all about me and not about us: get gritty, and get results.

Ian Windle is an award-winning leadership speaker, executive coach, team excellence builder and Vistage Group Chair. He regularly speaks at conferences in the UK and internationally and works with leadership teams on their strategy, vision and values, as well as developing their capabilities to perform at their peak.
He has an MBA from Henley Business School, is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, has an Executive and Corporate Coach Diploma (ILM7), a Diploma in Marketing and is an Accredited Belbin Team Roles Facilitator. His new book
The Leadership Map: The gritty guide to strategy that works and people who care is out on 4 May from Practical Inspiration Publishing.

(See Ian’s TEDx talk, ‘Why Everyone Needs an Unreasonable Dream’.)