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When Leadership is Not Needed


Disciplines > Leadership > When Leadership is Not Needed

Follower characteristics | Task characteristics | Organizational characteristics | See also


Leadership is not always needed in all situations. In fact when it is not needed, attempts to lead are irritating at best and may result in the would-be leader's advances being rejected.

Follower characteristics

Leaders are not needed when followers do not need them.


When followers are expert and capable in the jobs that they are doing, then there is little need to lead them in the tasks that they are doing.


When followers are already motivated in the job that they do, then there is no need for the leader to seek to enthuse them for the work.

Task characteristics

Leaders are not needed when the task is such that leadership has no value.


When the task is structured, routine and unambiguous in all ways, then once the follower knows what to do, then they probably do not need any further attention (at least in the task-focused sphere).

Feedback from task

When the task itself provides sufficient feedback on how the person is performing, then there is no need for the leader to do this.

Satisfying task

Some tasks are so intrinsically satisfying, that virtually anyone doing them find them interesting and enjoyable. In which case, the motivational actions of a leader are not needed.

Organizational characteristics

There are also factors within the organization that reduce the need for leadership.

Cohesive team

When the team of people in which the target person works is focused on the task and work well together, then others in the team will act as effective leaders, building motivation and showing the way forward.

Formal organization

When the whole ethos and culture of the company is around creating structures and controls, then leadership is probably inappropriate and would be rejected in favor of structured management approaches.

Distributed team

When the team are geographically spread, then leadership in this virtual team is difficult or even impossible.

See also

Power, Risk bias, Self vs. Others preference

Kerr, S. and Jermier, J.M. (1978). Substitutes for leadership: Their meaning and measurement, Organisational Behavior and Human Performance, 22, 375-403


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