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Zombie Leadership

I just had an hour long conversation with a colleague about leadership.  We both agreed when you’re working under the authority of a good or bad leader, you know it.  We also agreed that we would rather deal with a bad leader with a mission than have a complete absence of leadership.

If you are working toward a goal, and you realize (on your own or from the assistance of others) that you’re going in the wrong direction, you make a correction and get back on track.  You rely on leadership to guide you in the right direction.  Even leaders who are the worst of egoists have a vision and turn that into a mission. Unfortunately, that vision and mission may include throwing you under a bus along the way.

If you read my post on servant-leadership, you saw the I represented leadership on a grid.  On the far left, we had egoism.  On the far right, we had altruism.  If we added zombieism to the group, you would see it off to the left of the chart.  Zombieism shouldn’t really be on the chart because it is that absence of leadership.  But, we still need to put it into context.

Zombieism: When a zombie acts solely to feed itself.  You can find zombies exhibiting this orientation at every level of an organization.  The zombie thinks that it is a leader of a hoard but is a destructive force because it makes no leadership decisions, good or bad.  It merely feeds.  It mere exists.

Next we have different styles of leadership

7 Traditional Leadership Styles

  1. Autocratic – To make a decision without input from others.
  2. Coaching – To provide instruction to others.
  3. Consensus – To problem solve by a group as a whole.
  4. Consultative – To invite others to provide ideas.
  5. Directing – To give authoritative instructions to.
  6. Facilitating – To coordinate or expedite.
  7. Supporting – To provide assistance during the process.

7 Zombie Leadership Styles

  1. Anti-Autocratic – To not make a decision without input from others.
  2. Anti-Coaching – To not provide instruction to others.
  3. Anti-Consensus – To not problem solve by a group as a whole.
  4. Anti-Consultative – To not invite others to provide ideas.
  5. Anti-Directing – To not give authoritative instructions to.
  6. Anti-Facilitating – To not coordinate or expedite.
  7. Anti-Supporting – To not provide assistance during the process.

If you look at your boss, your boss’s boss, or your boss’s boss’s boss, and they delegate ALL of their authority to others, it does not make them a good leader!  It makes them a zombie leader.

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About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

4 Responses to “Zombie Leadership”

  1. December 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    What about oneself? How do we know if we’re the zombie PM? I suppose if we’re delegating everything to other people…

    • Anonymous
      December 31, 2010 at 12:15 am

      Managers are those who need to do things well. Leaders are those who need to do the right thing. If your management style is to delegate everything, I guess that “could” be effective. But, as a leader, you can’t delegate EVERYTHING.

      I wrote about zombie PMs in an earlier post

      Ask yourself if you could do absolutely nothing for the next week at work and be ok with it. Ask yourself if you’d be happy with just showing up and collecting a paycheck. If the answer is yes to either question, you may be infected with the zombie virus.

  2. MktgMeetsIT
    January 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Great post, Derek. I think it’s important to note that the anti-autocratic zombie style could be actually construed as a positive trait. Gathering input from others to inform a decision usually is – up to a point. It becomes a negative when the boss seeks out input with the goal of pawning off the decision (and the reponsibility for it) on those giving the input.

    • Anonymous
      January 2, 2011 at 2:44 am

      Cathy, thanks for your input. After I read your comment, I have to agree with you. I wrote: Anti-Autocratic – To not make a decision without input from others. With a double-negative, it does look like a positive. I don’t want to insinuate that a zombie leader would make a decision. That would just be crazy talk!

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