Beware of sedentary senior leaders

Jonathan Mills
3 min readJun 26, 2022


A sedentary lifestyle is often characterised by sitting or lying down while engaged in an activity like socializing, watching TV, playing video games, reading, or using a mobile phone or computer for much of the day. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to poor health quality, diseases, and preventable causes of death.

Applying the word ‘sedentary’ to leadership style, however, implies that the leader doesn’t make the effort to get down to the shop floor, relate to employees and encourage their growth. Time is not allocated for meaningful discussions, interaction regarding concerns and co-creating a vision that drives productivity and preferred results. The assumption amongst many that occupy senior leadership positions is that they employ managers to do this job of relating to staff and motivating them to produce results. The managers must meet the targets and produce the desired outcomes.

Whilst managers are indeed appointed to realise intended business outcomes, senior leadership must be present — visible, visionary, and vocal. Fundamentally, senior leadership needs to communicate and act on the following:

  1. Authenticitythis is what the company stands for (in terms of vision, mission, values, and strategic direction) and so do I, so you can trust me to talk to you about your performance in relation to company expectations honestly.
  2. FairnessI will always treat everyone fairly in the company and give all my subordinates opportunities to excel. I will not take sides or favour anyone.
  3. Genuine careI want to see you grow your skills, improve your perspective, and develop your career. I will treat our relationship as a set of learning opportunities.
  4. RespectI will uphold the dignity of everyone and respect all subordinates. I will communicate respectfully with you.
  5. Removing obstacleswhere possible, I will attempt to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and meaningless reports and rather create an empowering environment where you can give of your best.
  6. Vision impartationI will give you sufficient information so that you are able to relate your job role to the “bigger picture” of the company and its plan to get there.
  7. Presencewhilst I will not always be available, I am accessible. I will attempt to listen to you with emotional understanding. I will, however, not allow you to become dependent on me as this is not only unhealthy, but also stunts your growth.

Many senior leaders (in both government and business) are sedentary — they are simply not present where the action takes place. They prefer to retire to the relative safety and comfort of their respective offices and leather chairs and close their eyes and ears to the issues that their people face daily.

The appointment of senior leaders needs a fresh approach — finding people of integrity who can impart vision, listen to followers and act on concerns, create trust environments and uphold the dignity of everyone.

Originally published at on June 26, 2022.



Jonathan Mills

Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.