Do-Nothing Style of Management– Manage by Minimalism, Omission, Passivity: Less is More, More is Less…

Great leaders– do-nothing– except when they; think, make key decisions, facilitate, orchestrate… Great leaders spend their time preparing for the future, taking a comprehensive view of the business landscape while also noticing key competitive details… so that they can confidently choose the right strategy for growth…

However, do-nothing also has a negative connotation and defined as– failing to achieve, not doing anything important, failure to make progress, lacking commitment, drive, ambition… but for many business leaders considering to ‘do-nothing’ has intention: Intention to let go of ineffective activities just to ‘do something’,  but don’t stop to determine if that ‘something’ really needs to be done at all. It’s about responding rather than reacting.

Do-nothing is positive choice to keep things simple, accepting things as they are and appreciating what already exists, even if just for now… Sometimes doing something is good: But, sometimes do-nothing is better… According to David Worrell; if you are ever going to build a successful business you need to recruit right people, doing right jobs, at right time… Sometimes the right job is to ‘do-nothing’. Let me say it again; find a way to ‘do-nothing’, ‘make yourself obsolete’… This frees you– the leader– to do the real job, which is to be the chief visionary, rain-maker…

According to Ron Feddersen; worst business advice ever handed out may well be, ‘when in doubt do nothing’… Sadly, not enough executives ask themselves one critical question: Did I make a decision to ‘do-nothing’, or did I just ‘do-nothing’? How often have you consider doing nothing instead of doing something? Why not give yourself the green light to stop and choose? According to Theodore Roosevelt; in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing is do-nothing.

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In the book Do-Nothing! How to Stop Over-Managing and Become a Great Leader’ by J. Keith Murnighan writes: Great leaders don’t work they facilitate and orchestrate. They think of great strategies and help others implement them. They spend their time preparing for the future. They take a comprehensive view of their terrain while also noticing key details so they can confidently choose the right forks in the road…

In other words, great leaders– do-nothing– except think, make key decisions, help people do their jobs better, and add a touch of organizational control to make sure the final recipes come out okay. In sharp contrast, most leaders are too busy actually working to do these things– and their teams suffer as a result… contrary to popular opinion, leadership turns out to be as much about what you don’t do as what you do.

The best leaders today and in the future will look more like basketball coaches than great players; rarely engaging and letting great players run with the ball… Do-nothing leadership doesn’t mean that you can play golf every day, instead it means doing less than you did in your last job so you can focus your time and effort on facilitating and orchestrating.

Thus, ‘do-nothing’ leaders don’t really ‘do-nothing’ in a literal sense. Instead, they think of great strategies and help others implement them. They spend their time preparing for the future… Obviously, leaders might find it useful to pause and consider options when they really don’t know what to do, i.e., when they are faced with a novel situation that requires insights and skills that they don’t have.

These are times when it is critical to avoid doing anything until you can get relevant information… Recent research has identified another key time when leaders should literally ‘do-nothing’; it suggests that leaders who face moral decisions should stop and do-nothing– don’t rush into decisions. Instead, take the time and think about things for a little while and consider all the options… To ‘do-nothing’ may truly help you to ‘do the right thing’…

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In the article Business People Better Off– Did Less And Thought More by The Economist: There is never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must do more… Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little, but too much– too many distractions and interruptions, too many things done for the sake of form, and altogether too much busy-ness. It’s high time that we tried a different business strategy, e.g., ‘lean-back’ and not ‘lean-in’…

There is a distinguished history of leadership thinking in the ‘lean-back’ tradition, for example; Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s favorite prime minister, extolled the virtues of ‘masterful inactivity’… Herbert Asquith embraced a policy of ‘wait and see’ when he had the job…

The most obvious beneficiaries of ‘lean-back’ are creative workers– the people who are supposed to be at the very heart of modern economy, for example; leaders-managers at the top are best employed thinking about strategy rather than operations, and about whether the company is doing the right thing rather than whether it’s just sticking to its plans…

Jack Welch used to spend an hour a day in what he called ‘looking out of the window time’, Bill Gates used to take two ‘think weeks’ a year when he would lock himself in an isolated cottage, Jim Collins advises all bosses to keep a ‘stop-doing list’… Less is more-more is less.

Also, Keith Murnighan argues– that the best managers must focus their attention on establishing the right rules– recruiting the right people and establishing right incentives, and then get out-of-the-way. However, doing nothing may be going too far. Managers play important roles in coordinating complicated activities and disciplining slackers. And some creative people would never finish anything if they are left to their own devices.  However, there is certainly a case for doing a lot less. Leaning-in has been producing negative returns for some time now. It’s time to try the far more radical strategy of ‘lean-back’…

In the article Do-Nothing Bosses by Stephany Schings writes: Most employees can see the benefits of an effective boss and great deal of research has focused on effective leadership’s benefits to organizations… but, what about those bosses who take a more passive stance in their leadership roles? According to Brian C. Holtz; research shows that the ‘do-nothing’ bosses can have serious negative effects on their organizations and that, failing to lead, can have detrimental effects on organizational functionality…

Passive leaders– avoid engaging with their subordinates, fail to make decisions, and are generally ineffective. Passive leadership is defined as a combination of passive management by exception and laissez-faire leadership; where passive management by exception represents an avoidance of action until mistakes or problems can no longer be ignored, and laissez-faire leadership is defined as the absence of leadership all together…

The findings of the research suggest that employees of passive leaders ultimately perceive their organization as– not care about their well-being or provide the support necessary to succeed– it also suggests that work place incivility may flourish under passive leaders… It’s conceivable that well-intentioned supervisors could mistakenly perceive that passive leadership is an effective management style, for example; supervisors might wish to avoid being perceived as ‘micromanaging’ subordinates and by providing autonomy they empowering and foster motivation among employees.

This could lead individuals to assume that hands-off approach to leadership is optimal. However, providing employee autonomy and demonstrating effective leadership are not mutually exclusive… providing autonomy can be accomplished simply by allowing flexibility in– how, when, where… employees will accomplish particular work activities…

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In the article True Goal of Leadership by Geoffrey James writes: Many people believe that ‘leadership’ means getting out there and telling people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it… Nothing could be further from the truth. The true goal of leadership is to make yourself unnecessary. I know that sounds completely crazy but I’m very serious.

According to Mitchell Kerztman; I have finally risen to my level of competence, which is that I don’t do anything very well, but I do-nothing extremely well… The idea that the true goal of leadership is ability to do-nothing is encapsulated by the Taoist term ‘wu wei’ which has two meanings: ‘action without action’ and ‘action that does not have struggle or excessive effort’.

In the classic ‘The Art of War’ the author Sun Tzu expresses ‘wu wei’ by pointing out that great generals are reserved, calm and detached, rather than hotheads or busybodies. The same thing is true for great leaders. Great leaders recruit people who are very talented so that they don’t need guidance and can handle problems and disagreements on their own, without requiring the great leader to intervene…

To use a somewhat overused but nevertheless profound term, great leaders ‘empower’ people to make their own decisions. If you truly empower people, you are no longer needed as a decision-maker. You make yourself unnecessary, and do-nothing… When you’ve successfully accomplished this goal, only then you can expand your influence and take on new responsibilities, and once again strive to become unnecessary. If you don’t make yourself unnecessary, you’ll be stuck as a leader at the same level riding herd on the same people…

Can you achieve more by doing less? What if you actually were to donothing? We know the answer to this don’t we? As leaders, we know that work would stop and other things would come crashing down around you… Or, maybe the exact opposite would happen… The ‘act of doing’ and ‘strokes of leadership’ that propel incredible achievement, created by doing, can be very different and often in conflict with another… In order to do less, you must ‘trust’ more, and this entails letting go of ‘things’ that may at first would make you very uncomfortable…

As a leader, the job is ‘not to do’ but to facilitate, orchestrate and help others succeed in doing… To do-nothing and be successful, you must figure out who is exceptional at specific tasks and allow them to take over… According to Robert Tanner; sometimes the wisest thing you can do is nothing at all! For some managers, these words can be a source of great irritation. This is particularly true when the managers are highly motivated to get things done, quickly, or when they are set on a specific course of action… Moving too quickly to address organizational issues can be as destructive as moving too slowly. Sometimes the best solutions come when you delay the decision for a while… 

This might mean to take a break, do-nothing and engage in some thoughtful reflection and possible consultation, then revisit the issue-situation… It’s the difference between making a rash decision with consequences that may not be able to fix the matter, and making wise decision that allows you to preserve relationships and still meet critical goals.

Effective leaders make decisions and they get results, and effective leaders also know when they should delay making decisions, i.e., do-nothing– to get results… According to Aristotle; to avoid criticism– say nothing, do-nothing, be nothing…