How not to be a passive leader

I recently spoke with a colleague, Richard Bistrong, who is a compliance, ethics, and anti-bribery consultant. Richard shares his perspective about passive leadership: how it comes up when managing your business processes, and how to avoid this model and lead your teams actively. Richard defines passive leadership as a leader who is not clear in their goal-setting communication. Everyone is under pressure; passive leaders may issue an unspoken directive to do what it takes to get the work accomplished, even if that means taking ethical shortcuts. Yet it’s the job of a leader to ensure ethics compliance—this is not a task that should be shunted off to your company’s legal department. As Richard shares, you, the leader, are a role model: it’s critical that you model ethical behavior and demand it of your teams.

Here are four steps Richard shares to help you and your team avoid the trap of passive leadership.

Upfront planning

Leaders need to plan for contingencies at the start of a project.  Richard states that by spending planning time upfront, leaders will find weak spots in the team’s processes. Richard says that at the beginning of the planning cycle, leaders should share with their teams that it’s essential to succeed, but the success imperative is not license to take a short cut along the way.

There will always be risks associated with buying or selling anything. Now more than ever, as companies look to grow their businesses, the temptation for quick growth at the expense of ethics and integrity is especially present. Richard shares that the key to resolving this tension is to acknowledge competing objectives and to be transparent with your planning goals. Communicate ethics directives clearly to your teams.


Richard points out that silence from your teams doesn’t mean that no one is struggling.  If your organization isn’t calling you, then it’s crucial that you touch base with them. No news doesn’t always mean good news. Ensure that you are supporting your teams so that your direct reports have someone with whom they can share their nuanced concerns.

Richard provides a script for leaders to share with their teams: “We appreciate that goals can appear to conflict with what can realistically be accomplished. We want to hear from you so that we can help you. We don’t want you to be struggling, so please pick up the phone and call us. We will be calling and checking in on you as well.”

Richard offers this advice: “The only problems that we can’t help you with are the ones you are keeping to yourselves.” It’s critical that you set up a structure in which your team can unpack problems together. Richard pushes teams to pause when dealing with problems, so no one feels overwhelmed and thinks they have to sacrifice integrity for quick success. This culture must be created at the top, by the leader—you. Richard encouraged leaders to take ownership of their teams with respects to planning, forecasting, and addressing risks in the financial plan.


Richard shares that even if leaders have the best intentions, their direction will not be received immediately. Expect to communicate your intentions and directives via multiple messaging channels. Leaders must create a culture of give and take, of listening as much (or more) than they talk. Richard offers that leaders should get to know their teams by asking them plenty of questions. Create a positive and sustainable environment where you can create a strong feedback loop. The most important focus for you as a leader is to listen to your team’s challenges. Your team is on the front lines; they can help you manage your own expectations in regard to your need for rapid growth and delivery.


There is always a need for speed.  Everything needs to be done—now.  Of course, there are times when speed is crucial. However, speed and success isn’t a zero-sum game. Richard advises that leaders should challenge themselves on the need for speed. You can hit the “pause button,” Richard says, by having tough conversations when setting up goals and deliverables. Have your team pressure test and challenge you to balance objective setting, risks, financial goals, and values.

While it’s essential to meet your financial goals, you can’t sit by passively while your team makes decisions without you.  By leveraging the four factors of planning, communicating, listening, and speed, you will help ensure that you are meeting financial goals while mitigating risk and achieving sustainable and ethical business growth.



On the occasion of Africa Anti-Corruption Day, President Muhammadu Buhari has urged African leaders to ensure the immediate actualisation of the Common African Position on Assets Recovery (CAPAR), as the continent celebrates Anti-Corruption Day, July 11, 2020… Read Full Story
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the University of Lagos (UNILAG) branch, Akoka, has asked the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed, to prevail on the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the… Read Full Story
Controversy trailed the wedding Fatiha of the eldest son of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) held on Saturday in Kano state… Read Full Story
Dr Idris Salako, Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, says the state government will enforce the law on the demolition of distressed buildings… Read Full Story
THOUGH the Federal Government is dithering on the resumption of academic activities in schools across the country, the Oyo State government recently took a bold step and announced that academic activities would resume in schools, with the forerunners being pupils in primary six and secondary school students in JSS3 and… Read Full Story
STEPHEN GBADAMOSI looks at the problems caused by the phenomenon of deputy governor and vice president offices alongside the huge budgetary allocations to them and lack of clear-cut responsibilities… Read Full Story
The United States again broke its own record for new coronavirus cases in a single day, with over 66,600 fresh infections documented on Friday, according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University… Read Full Story
I would advise people never to believe that rubbish from that former British colonial official, Harold Smith, that British rigged the 1959 general elections for the North to control Nigeria. It is a bunch of lies and disjointed attempt to ravish our country and her history. That man was a hired agent recruited to do that dirty job to… Read Full Story
AGAIN, the system felled Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last week. It had always done that. Olusegun Obasanjo, the maiden president at inception of Nigeria’s fourth republic, first erected the crucifixion upon which a crime-fighting czar was hung… Read Full Story
IN its reaction to Federal Government’s announcement of the full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it would mobilise its members against the move. Although the labour movement made some germane observations about the welfare of the populace… Read Full Story
I have always maintained that only the pathetically ignorant and the deepest of the shallows will ever believe that Nigeria as is can fight corruption… Read Full Story
You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. AcceptRead More