Asleep at the Wheel

Let’s just face the facts. Sometimes we all just get tired and need to rest. Whether physical exhaustion, mental or otherwise, we need to take some time to step out of our busy lives, leadership roles and focus on rejuvenation. Go lay down. Take a load off your feet and your mind. The Lazy Leadership topic for today is:


2. Asleep At The Wheel – yes I am referring to those in the driver seat who are too tired to be behind the wheel, but won’t give up the place designated for the one in charge. They drive while tired and are detriment to themselves as well as others on the road. There is no intent nor malice behind their actions, they just believe that they are well enough to drive and can make it safely home


The effects of “driving while tired” on your leadership performance?

  1. It impairs ability to create strategic direction.
  2. It causes elongated articulation and rollout organizational activities.
  3. It impairs judgment.
  4. It impairs the ability to insist on organizational innovation.


I’ve recently been closely observing a very dear friend. This is someone I have known for over 30 years who operates at the senior leadership level of a fairly large corporation. At first I thought his change in attitude had more to do with his need for an extended vacation or sabbatical, but then I spent more time listening and watching and realized he is burned out and time off would not fix the problem.  It may just be time for him to move on to another role and operate in a different position.


Recently his lack of commitment to the organization has begun to show through in the decisions he is making. His messages lack conviction. His interaction with the team lacks investment. His tone is flat. He is coasting from day to day, performing duties, but certainly not operating at the top of his game nor to his true potential. I have observed “rubber stamp” activities emanating from his delivery.


After engaging in direct conversations with this leader I concluded that he is simply going through the motions, asleep at the wheel, biding his time until he either moves on or retires. When you are asleep at the wheel, you will allow the same ole same ole to be rolled out to your customers rather than seeking innovation and cutting edge. You won’t even seek out new and different because it’s easier to put out old and tired. Your actions convey “play it safe and boring” rather than seeking out what could be the next best thing to rally the troops and galvanize the organization.


What do I recommend in this situational leadership example? Normally I encourage the person in the leadership role to explore the why behind his actions, but in this case it wasn’t necessary. My friend is part of a rapidly changing and evolving organization and he is not on board for the upcoming shift in direction. Instead of going with the flow, my friend has chosen to continue on the staid and tested route.


This behavior is not uncommon. Instead of embracing the change and leading a team through the maze and mindset shift, many leaders will aim to stay below the radar and go through the motions. If you as the leader of an organization cannot remain alert and vigilant, then it may be time to take a sabbatical from your role until you can decide on your next steps and updated purpose. If you are asleep at the wheel, your team will recognize your actions as less than committed. You are tired and it’s time to hand the driver’s seat off to someone else who is alert and wants to lead.