‘Do-Nothing’ Style of Management– Manage on the Fringe, Minimalism: Virtues of Inaction, Focus on Purpose…

Great leaders ‘do-nothing’– except when they; create the vision, act strategic, define the organization’s road-map, steer the organization to successful outcomes… Great leaders-managers achieve great outcomes when they spend their time ‘doing-nothing’, but preparing for the future– choose right strategy, recruit most effective management team, empower others to do ‘things right’…

According to Leo Babauta; clear away the noise and you can concentrate on creative thinking, and clear away the distractions and you can create something incredible… Leaders-managers must understand– ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how much’… they do what they do. They must ‘do-things’ that really matter for the organization’s sustainability, and give ‘meaning’ to the ‘purpose’ of the organization… and everything else is to ‘do-nothing’…

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Although sometimes ‘doing something’ is good, but sometimes ‘doing-nothing’ is better… According to David Worrell; sometimes the right-thing is to ‘do-something’; sometimes the right thing is to ‘do-nothing’… However, there are less effective leaders-managers who cannot do any-thing, and they just ‘do-nothing’… Sadly not enough  leaders-mangers ask themselves one important question: Do I make a decision to ‘do-nothing’, or do I just ‘do-nothing’?  According to Theodore Roosevelt; in any decision the best thing leaders-managers can do is the ‘right thing’, and the worst thing is ‘do-nothing’…

In the book Do-Nothing– Stop Over-Managing and Become Great Leader’ by J. Keith Murnighan writes: Great leaders-managers don’t work they– facilitate, orchestrate… They take a comprehensive view of business environments, then they conceptualize, strategize, empower others… while they prepare for the next future… In other words, great leaders- managers ‘do-nothing’ except provide the vision, road-map, support for employees to do things-right… and when things don’t go quite right, they are they change agents that makes things-right… In sharp contrast, many leaders-managers are too busy doing other people’s things and the organization suffers as a result…

Contrary to popular opinion, leadership-management turns out to be– as much about what you ‘don’t do’, as what you ‘do’… As an analogy, great leaders-managers are more like basketball coaches than great players; they sit on the side-lines and let the great players run with the ball… Do-nothing leaders-managers doesn’t mean that you can play golf every day, it means doing less of other people’s tasks, so you can focus on things that really matter… Thus, ‘do-nothing’ leaders-managers don’t really ‘do-nothing’ in a literal sense, they do things that great leaders-managers must do– they steer the business and plan for the future…

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In the article Management is Better Off If They Do Less, Think More by The Economist: There is never-ending supply of organizational gurus telling– leaders-managers that they must do more… Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not– doing too little, but doing too much… there are too many distractions, interruptions… there are too many things done for the sake of correctness… and altogether too much ‘busy-ness’. It’s high time that leaders-managers try different business behavior, i.e.; ‘lean-back’ and do not ‘lean-in’… In fact, there is a distinguished history of leadership thinking in the– ‘lean-back’ tradition, e.g.; let’s ‘wait and see’, or ‘it can wait until tomorrow’, or ‘you need more data’…

The most obvious beneficiaries of ‘lean-back’ are creative workers– the people who are supposed to be at the very heart of modern organizations, e.g.; leaders-managers who, sit at the top of the food chain, thinking about strategy rather than day-to-day operations, and about whether the company is doing the ‘right things’ rather doing ‘things right’, e.g.; 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’

According to Keith Murnighan; best leaders-managers focus attention on establishing the right rules, recruiting the right people, establishing right incentives… then, they get out-of-the-way… However, ‘doing nothing’ may be going too far; some leaders-managers do play important roles in– coordinating key activities, disciplining worst slackers… as well as, managing some creative people who would never finish anything, when left to their own devices… But in balance, the ‘lean-in’ approach has distorted the concept of doing ‘right things’ and doing ‘things right’… hence it’s time to try far more radical approach of ‘lean-back’…

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

Passive leaders who avoid engaging with managers, employees, stakeholders… who fail to make decisions… are generally ineffective… Research suggest that work place incivility often flourishes under passive (hands-off) leaders-managers…

However, even well-intentioned leaders-managers can mistakenly perceive that their passivity (i.e., hands-off) is an effective management style– these leaders-managers  are concerned that they might be perceived as ‘micro-managing’… As a result  they empowers employees with much more autonomy than might be prudent… Their hopes are that this freedom fosters greater– motivation, productivity…

So what works better– ‘hands-on’ or ‘hands-off’? That is a difficult issue and really depends on many factors, including; type of organization, management style of the leaders-managers, individual abilities of the employees… for some organizations ‘hands-off’ works well, and others might need more ‘hands-on’ management… However  in most organizations, it need not be one or the other– ‘hands-off’ or ‘hands-on’ management are not mutually exclusive– great leaders-managers are smart enough to establish a balance between the two…

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In the article True Goal of Leadership by Geoffrey James writes: Many people believe that ‘leadership’ means telling people– what to do, how to do it, when to do it… Nothing could be further from the truth. The true goal of leadership is to make the leader ‘unnecessary’… According to Mitchell Kerztman; I have finally risen to my level of competence, which is– ‘I don’t do anything very well’, but ‘I do-nothing’ extremely well… 

The idea that the true goal of leadership is the ability to do-nothing is encapsulated by the Taoist term– ‘wu wei’ which has two meanings: ‘action without action’ and ‘action that does not require 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, detached… rather than hot-heads, busy-bodies…

The same thing is true for great business leaders; great leaders recruit people who are both talented and don’t require much guidance, people who can handle problems and make decisions without requiring intervention, hand-holding… Great leaders ‘empower capable’ people who can– solve problems, make decisions, develop new initiatives… This allows great leaders to do-nothing, but steer the business…

Once you are truly in position to do-nothing you can expand your influence and take on new responsibilities, then once again you strive to do-nothing– sign of a great leaders-managers is to always do-nothing. Or, if you continue to do the ‘some things’, or ‘many things’… then you become just another leader-manager– stuck at the same level, riding herd on the same people, until you are not longer needed…

The popular wisdom is when the leaders-managers ‘do-nothing’ then work stops and things come crashing down, and the business is in trouble… Or, possibly the ‘acts of doing’, ‘stokes of leadership’ that propel incredible achievement created by doing, can be very different and often in conflict with another, e.g.; in order to ‘do-nothing’ or ‘do-little’, you must ‘trust more’, which means that people are empowered to do-more, and for many leader this can be very– uncomfortable, unnerving, threating… and there lays the big difference; great leaders-managers accept the challenge to ‘do-nothing’, whereas all other leaders must always continue to ‘do-something’…

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According to Manfred Kets DeVries; in today’s networked society we all are at risk of becoming victims of information overload… we are losing the art of introspection and reflection. All we can think about is ‘just finish things’, or ‘find out things’… but working harder for ‘things’ is not necessarily working smart…

In fact, just slack-off and set-aside regular periods of ‘doing nothing’ may be the best thing you can do… it’s mental time-off when you can induce a states of mind that nurture– imagination, creativity, and improve mental health…

The most effective leaders-managers are those who can both; act and reflect… that means unplugging from compulsion to keep busy, and just ‘do-nothing’…