Leadership by Not Showing Up…

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Updated from August 10, 2012 post

Leadership is mostly about “showing up”; it’s often about leveraging your presence in a room in order to influence, to cast vision, to bring alignment and to build teams.

But effective leaders I know are just as strategic about leveraging their absence in order to move their organizations forward.

Here are four situations where your most effective leadership might be leveraged by your absence.

1.   Being absent from the “limelight”
Many leaders simply can’t resist the lure of a microphone. If there’s an audience to be addressed most leaders will jump at the chance. And many times that is the right move.

But effective leaders know that this can often be the opportunity to profile an up-and-coming leader in the organization. These leaders never miss a chance to profile and develop talent.

2.   Being absent from a decision-making meeting
You need to tread carefully here, but not being present every single time a decision has to be made can communicate something very powerful to your team. It shows you trust them to make the right call without you.

Organizations that demonstrate speed and agility excel at this.

3.   Being absent from the “30,000 foot” view
Effective leaders have a knack for knowing when to step down from the big-picture vantage point, and instead spending time on the ground floor of the organization.

Ever watched the tv show, “Undercover Boss”?

4.   Being absent from the office altogether
Leaders must set the pace regarding long-term thinking, strategizing and planning. And sometimes the best (and only) way to do this is to pull away from the daily responsibilities of leadership, slow down, and get away.

When should a leader leverage their absence? It tends to be more of a “gut” instinct. Effective leaders have a gnawing awareness that they need to pull back from one of these arenas.

If you’ve been sensing a need to lead from your absence, pay attention to that instinct, and act on it.

Because sometimes a leader will be most effective when they aren’t around at all.

Are there other situations you have found that require your absence?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow, Olive & Charlie and John, Fiona, Will & Harvey. Lifelong learner.


  1. This is where faith in your staff plays a part of their leadership, loyalty and trust in you as the leader and in the company.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Well said Scott!

  2. I love the connection you point out between the way a leader will insert themselves into every leadership situation, and the faith they have in their team. You’re absolutely right- there is a direct connection.

    Sometimes the lack of faith could be justified (it’s a new, inexperienced team); but sometimes the lack of faith stems from the leader’s unwillingness to provide growth opportunities.

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