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Why Engaging the Disengaged Leader Is Key to Employee Engagement


5998280Throughout the last decade, much of the emphasis surrounding disengagement research has been focused on employees. Accordingly, 85 percent of them are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work, which results in a whopping $7 trillion in lost productivity.
While it is perfectly clear why one would want to investigate employee disengagement, leader disengagement is as equally important – if not more – but just doesn’t receive as much attention. In fact, a famous definition of leadership by Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard, the developers of Situational Leadership Model (SLM) and authors of Management Of Organizational Behavior, says that leadership is "The process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation.”

So, does such a high level of employee disengagement mean that leaders fail to influence those around them? Who’s to blame for this? The answer is most certainly complex, but it’s reasonable to assume that one of the reasons is due to the leaders themselves being disengaged.

To support this statement, we conducted research to find out what the actual leader engagement percentage is. A quick review of available sources suggests that managers, executives, and officials had an engagement level of 36 percent.

Just thirty-six percent! That’s how many leaders effectively influence their followers to achieve common goals. Therefore, almost two-thirds of all leaders or 74 percent are failing to do their part in helping the company reach its goal(s).

Is workers' confidence in their leadership on the rise this quarter? To find out, click here to download the Yoh/HRO Today Worker's Confidence Index.

If we continue our research and find out how many employees leave their jobs because of their leaders, we find alarming numbers. For example, according to this LinkedIn research, 41 percent of people polled cited “dissatisfaction with leadership” as their top reason for leaving their jobs voluntarily.

In addition, other reasons such as a lack of recognition for contributions and inappropriate work culture are also directly linked to the performance of leadership. Being in such a unsatisfactory work environment often makes people resent office work and become traveling freelancers.

Indeed, the cost of disengaged leaders is astounding. Disengaged employees cost the economy $7 trillion, but a leader could be ten times the cost of a single employee.

So, what can be done to engage the disengaged? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at possible root causes of the problem.


Reasons Leaders are Disengaged


The Leader Lacks Employee Engagement Skills

To be an effective leader, you need to learn a lot of skills, and some of them don’t come naturally and easily. So, there is a good chance that a leader doesn’t have this skill or a plan on how to engage the staff.


The Leader Finds Their Job Stressful

Despite popular opinion, being in charge isn’t exactly a vacation. For many people, dealing with all roles and responsibilities can be highly stressful.


The Leader Doesn’t Care about Engaging Employees

“Of course, the possibility that a leader is simply lazy and self-centered shouldn’t be dismissed,” explains Sam Black, an HR expert at “He or she may prioritize their career or financial reward, so employee engagement may not exactly be on their list of goals.”


How to Engage Disengaged Leaders

The proper solution depends on your unique situation, but some of the common ones include the following:


Offer Training

As mentioned above, one of the reasons for disengagement is the lack of appropriate skills, so training could be a good solution. Have a leader enroll in a leadership course that will help them to build their skills and improve their style of leading.


Review Your Own Leadership Style

Some leaders are disengaged because senior managers run the business in a way that makes lower level leaders think that there’s no point to their positions. In other words, it seems to them that senior management doesn’t trust them with their responsibilities, so they lose enthusiasm and motivation.

Changing your approach to managing your leaders and demonstrating your trust in them could be a good way to engage them in this case.


Offer Them More Chances to Prove Themselves

In some cases, leaders could be simply bored because all they do is routine, and it’s known to undermine productivity. To engage them, try offering them a chance to prove themselves; for example, if you’re about to launch a new project, have them operate as key figures.


Review Company Culture

Does your company culture allow leaders to have the freedom they need to operate? For example, maybe they can’t speak about some problems or issues openly, and this demotivates them and undermines the effectiveness of their leadership style?


Fire Them

Always be open to the possibility that the leader simply doesn’t care about being engaged, so most of the previous techniques won’t work (but take your time arriving at this conclusion!). If you’re sure that the real reason for the problem is laziness or unwillingness to change, feel free to move that leader out. Don’t waste your time.



The cost of disengaged leaders is staggering and reminds us once again how important it is to have effective and well-trained people in charge of leading others. The problem is obviously complex, but I hope this information was helpful to you to understand all the factors and aspects involved.


About the Author: Audrey Pilcher is a visual content and digital marketing specialist who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger and currently works at She is a tech-savvy person and likes to write on different topics like social media, web design, mobile apps, online marketing and much more.

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