Disastrous Leadership Approach, The Dutiful Employee

The Dutiful Employee is the person who always waits to be told what to do and refuses to think for himself or herself.

At first this employee is highly valued because the boss will give him or her a variety of important projects and tasks to accomplish and this person will come through every time. The problem occurs when the boss realizes that this person always waits to be told what to do. He or she never steps forward with an idea on how to improve the business or how to do something in a better way. At this point the boss realizes that he or she has to always think for The Dutiful Employee and sees that this person can never be given leadership responsibilities in the organization.

Two Questions to Avoid the Dutiful Employee Disastrous Leadership Approach

1. When are you pausing to wait to be told what to do rather than identifying what you can do to improve results?

2. Is it a healthy pause that allows time for others to clarify the direction you should be moving in, or is it an unhealthy pause that is slowing down progress in your organization?

2 thoughts on “Disastrous Leadership Approach, The Dutiful Employee

  1. Dan,
    I’ve enjoyed your recent series on leadership approaches and types of leaders. If you have a “Dutiful Employee”, what can be done to increase their assertiveness (assuming timidity/passiveness) is the problem?


    Doug Ringer

    • Doug, I suggest you sit down with the employee and explain the different between The Employee’s Mindset and The Leader’s Mindset. The former says, “Tell me what to do and I’ll go do it,” and the latter says, “Tell me the outcome you want us to improve and I’ll figure out a way to make it happen.” Show the employee the downside for the boss and how time the boss wastes in always having to think for the employee. Once the employee sees the difference, he or she may choose to switch gears. A lot of times employees think the boss wants him or her to wait to be told what to do. It goes back to that old-fashioned way of thinking: do what the boss and never make the boss mad. That creates a dependency on the boss, which is unhealthy for everyone. Don’t assume that the employee knows that you want him or her to take charge and provide leadership. If after explaining this a few times with examples and the employee still always waits to be told what to do, then you know that this person is embedded in The Employee’s Mindset and you will have to decide if this is the type of employee you want over the long term. There’s certainly no reason that this person can’t be a good functional employee for a long time, but it’s unlikely the person will provide real leadership in your organization.

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