Episode #13: Dysfunctions of Permissive Leadership

Have you noticed the trend in business to let employees off the hook when they fail to meet their commitments on time; refuse to do aspects of their jobs; or insist they do something “their way” despite your directions? As leaders, many of us are trying so hard to be what we believe employees expect us to be, that we allow all kinds of bad behavior and fail to notice when we are being taken advantage of or disrespected. We rationalize, give in, and compensate for employees’ poor work product without owning the true cause of our behaviors: they are for our own benefit. We’re acting in defense of ourselves – against looking bad and avoiding a difficult conversation where someone might get upset with us. We want to be seen as a good leader, so we silence ourselves and prioritize the needs and feelings of others so they like us and approve of our understanding behavior (even when we are seething on the inside). Without realizing it, leaders are prioritizing their personal needs and fears over the needs of the business.

In today’s episode, Anne & Heather explore the Dysfunctions of Permissive Leaders and share some real client stories that illustrate just how common it is to find this type of leadership behavior in organizations today. They’ll also share some practical tips that you can use if the Permissive Leadership Dysfunction is causing your “nice” guy or gal leadership to result in decreased effectiveness and ultimately, harm to the organization. 

If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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  • [01:45] Episode introduction and overview 
  • [02:44] What is the Permissive Leadership Dysfunction? 
  • [04:13] What’s the problem with Permissive Leadership? 
  • [24:11] Organizational dysfunctions that Permissive Leaders can cause: Lack of Accountability 
  • [31:01] Organizational dysfunctions that Permissive Leaders can cause: Employee Disengagement 
  • [33:24] Organizational dysfunctions that Permissive Leaders can cause: Caring Too Much 
  • [36:50] Episode gem & practical takeaway 
  • [37:54] Episode wrap up



  • Permissive Leadership is letting employees do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. Leaders are involved as little as possible and believe they don’t need to tell employees how to do their job. They give employees freedom, trusting they are responsible enough to do their jobs independent of involvement from their leader. A core belief held by Permissive Leaders is that if you give people the resources they need, they will work independently and not require input from their boss. 
  • Trying to be a “nice” guy or gal gets in the way of leaders being effective. It also creates other issues that can consume time and energy. Leaders end up feeling overly responsible for taking care of the emotions of their employees. They wind up doing part of their employees’ jobs because they don’t know how to identify issues or it’s easier than tolerating their emotions. 
  • When leaders allow employees the freedom to “dump their bucket” or act out their emotions, they can expect their authority to diminish. They end up giving their employees free rein and the authority to do their work in the manner they see fit. Allowing this behavior causes a lack of individual and team alignment behind the goals of the organization. 
  • While there are times for inclusion, having everyone included in the decision-making process just so that no one feels left out is inefficient, time-consuming and often ends in power plays. Permissive Leaders run the risk of appearing to be incapable of making decisions on their own. They can slow down planning processes or bring people to meetings that have nothing to contribute. This so-called collaborative decision-making process only serves to frustrate those employees who have earned the right to participate in decisions. 
  • For all leaders who are trying to be all things to all people in your organization, it’s time to recognize that you are giving away your power and stop! Being adaptive and making everything work for everyone else while not expecting the same from employees is exhausting. You are simply abdicating responsibility for your role and making others temporarily happy at the expense of yourself, your growth potential, and success. You must start holding your personal and position power and authority by stopping the leaks. Stop making excuses, stop trying to be all things to everyone; stop saying yes when you mean no; and stop blaming employees for not meeting expectations when you aren’t holding anyone accountable. 


Autocratic Leadership is a survival strategy that is based on the flight or fight mechanism in the brain quote
Autocratic Leaders decide who is and isn't valuable to them based on their usefulness - Anne Dranitsaris quote
As autocratic leaders need to be in control, they make their people into minions and then complain about them - Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard quote
Directive leadership behavior that has no emotional charge to it is not autocratic - Anne Dranitsaris quote

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