The Disengaged Leader

What do you do when the boss stops leading

Leaders become disengaged just like anyone else, only the impact has a reach far greater than that of their own seat. Disengagement on the leadership level results in a ripple effect across a team and across an organization. Lack of direction and guidance will leave even the most effective and talented contributors and team weary, exhausted, and slowly but surely, heading down the path of disengagement too. It’s an inevitable ripple effect when left unchecked.

Maybe the world shifted and the “new normal” has left them reeling to find their footing and unable to figure out which steps to take next, or how to engage their team to help themselves become much more effective. Maybe the role wasn’t quite the right fit to start. Maybe the opportunity to develop crucial leadership skills never showed up, or if it did, it was a one-and-done scenario years ago.

Whatever the reason, addressing disengagement at the leadership level is crucial. So, what do you do when a manager or supervisor becomes absent? Distant? Too overwhelmed by their own responsibilities to support their team?


Leadership is seeking the opportunity to understand and serve.

Most people mistake leadership with being “in charge”. Being in charge simply means you are sitting in a seat that offers an opportunity to lead at the organizational level, but it doesn’t mean leadership happens.

True leadership is about taking the initiative to better understand the needs and concerns of others and stepping up to meet those needs. This includes the manager or supervisor who has become disengaged and needs your support more than ever right now.

When is the last time you had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with this person? We’re not talking a routine check-in or meeting. We’re talking a conversation where you set the stage of open and honest dialogue. You ask important questions and do a lot of listening: Listening to understand where this individual is struggling and where they need your support.

Start with a simple and powerful question: How are you feeling?


It’s never too late to provide development opportunities.

When a leader has become disengaged, it is because they no longer feel invested in the outcome of their role (assuming they were engaged at some point in time). While there are no quick fixes to reengaging a leader, there are building blocks from which you can start.

To reengage a leader, they need to first see and feel your investment in them, investment in their success. Evidence of a struggle should not become a finger-pointing blame game. Instead, it becomes a tremendous opportunity for you to reflect on the support (or lack thereof) that has been given to this individual and to seek an opportunity to build on that support in a more effective way. As the landscape of business shifts and changes, so do the needs of our leaders. Effective leadership isn’t a place to land, it’s a process that constantly evolves, sometimes slowly over time, and sometimes it changes overnight. Leaders must be equipped to succeed, including being given leadership support and the opportunity to build on their knowledge and skills based on the needs of today.

Looking for an opportunity to support your leaders?

Join us for EANE’s first-ever Virtual Leadership Conference

on June 25 & 26!