10 Signs a Leader Has Disengaged

This article was published in MEED by Dr Corrie Block

Implications of disconnected executives continuing to inflate the intellectual capital bubble cannot be ignored, says GCC business strategist Corrie Block

The region is developing an economic bubble with significant financial implications and when it implodes, companies will be forced to face hard truths about the cost of fostering poor leadership.

The technological and process improvements of a company have become one of the leading indicators of differentiation from its competitors. From a long-term perspective, these improvements and innovations are what contribute to a company’s bottom line; essentially, its intellectual capital.

As cities become increasingly tech-savvy, intellectual capital begins to be classified as a capital gain for its companies. So, in a ‘Smart City’ that is driven to improve happiness and prosperity for its citizens and residents, keeping leaders who are disconnected from their business’s human and intellectual capital is unsustainable. 

Before it is too late, hold a mirror up at your business’s leadership and determine whether the person staring back fits one of the following categories. If at least six of these ring true, then it is time to reflect some truth back to the top.

1. Your company’s leader is one of the most powerful executives in the country, governing the livelihoods of thousands of families and has been in the same organization since before its millennial staff were born.

2. Your leader views employees like ‘human capital’, but does not treat them as ‘human’ at all; they decline meetings with senior managers or cancels them based on their mood.

3. Your leader is just above middle aged, good at networking with people in their age bracket, yet yells at staff like a tantruming toddler.

4. Your leader is definitely a macro-leader, but not well read enough to know what ‘macro-leading’ means. In fact, they do not read much more than the news, ever.

5. Your leader outsources their social media accounts in order to look more ‘in touch’ publicly, but in reality is entirely disconnected from their end customers.

6. Your leader has not taken a training course in more than a decade, and refers to best practices from 2005 as ‘innovations’.

7. Your leader uses other peoples’ ideas as their own due to a lack of creativity.

8. Everyone recognizes your leader’s power and cowers when with them. People agree with your leader in public, but call them an idiot when out of earshot. No one considers your leader to be forward thinking or highly competent.

9. The closed door to your leader’s office is guarded by a beautiful young gatekeeper.

10. Your leader would not recognized themself on this list, struggling to see even one common denominator.

Intellectual capital bubble

This list describes more than a few executives in the region. But what are the implications of them continuing to inflate the ‘intellectual capital bubble’? As executives with power continue to fight against the real leaders of the future – those with knowledge, capacity and competencies – the intellectual capital bubble will burst. We are already seeing this happening in Dubai, which is struggling to retain talent because too much money is being spent on the salaries of high-level management who lack the capacity to self-assess and self-improve. 

Instead, we should be investing in talented individuals with the ability to drive profits by creating new products and processes. If those in power do not learn to empower others, then people with real competence will leave to places such as Silicon Valley, Tallinn, Beijing, Seoul, and Singapore.

The truth is that if you are not being empowered from the top down, then you have to empower yourself from the ground level up. Sitting idle is the real cost of bad leadership and results in catastrophic mediocrity within organizations. 

The question is what can innovators do to get decision makers to take note and change? If you know a leader who needs to wake up before the bubble bursts, buy them books as a hint to start reading again. Invite them to the shop floor or challenge them to a Spartan Race to connect them with the labour class. Suggest articles to read or YouTube thought leaders to follow, and send links to their secretary. Be annoyingly helpful and, importantly, be persistent.

It is probably not a good idea to send your leader this article, but spend some of the time you ere wasting through being disempowered in your job on forwarding the resources that you think your out-of-touch leader needs to see. Think of it as intellectual empowerment. And, who knows? After 45 copies of Why Leaders Eat Last and a thousand subtle (and not so subtle) references pour into their offices, perhaps you’ll start to see the change – that you instigated – to their intellectual capital. 

If you suffer under this type of leadership then you’re probably wondering how you get an executive that ticks any of those 10 indicators to hear your plea. That’s how we got here in the first place; leadership that’s disconnected and out-dated, but too arrogant to self-reflect.