Micromanagement is preferable to disengagement.

Micromanagers vs Absentee CEOs: Which is Better for Your Team?

Micromanagers and absentee CEOs are two common leadership archetypes, but which one is better for the success of your team? Many executives would prefer to work under a micromanager because while it can be frustrating, it moves things forward. On the other hand, disengaged leaders can cause significantly worse outcomes. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the pros and cons of micromanagers and absentee CEOs and explore why managers become disengaged.

Micromanagers: Frustrating but Effective

For a long time, many employees found the micromanager CEO archetype very frustrating to work with. They would often pop out of nowhere, jab holes in the work without understanding tradeoffs, and then disappear when it was time to explain decisions. In those moments, employees wished that managers would trust them based on their track record of good work. The problem is that if managers don’t trust their team, it’s difficult to make significant progress.

Absence Doesn’t Always Make the Heart Grow Fonder

When industry peers were asked about absentee CEOs, it was revealed that many CEOs who act in this way do exist. While an absentee CEO may seem empowering, it usually means that the executive team can’t move important decisions forward. When the executives did make progress, it was by accepting whatever outcome they could build consensus around, rather than making the best possible decisions.

Executives who’ve worked with micromanagers and absentee CEOs would almost unanimously prefer to work with a micromanager. Not because they enjoy the micromanager, but because the micromanager moves things forward. If you care about impact, it’s better to make forward progress with pockets of frustration than to languish indefinitely, and all successful executives care about impact.

Disengagement: The Worst Case Scenario

Ideally, managers should neither micromanage nor disengage from their team. Many managers do drift into one behavior or the other, and if they must, it’s better to be a bit of a micromanager than to be disengaged. Teams need ongoing attention and care. For all the complaints about micromanagers, being a disengaged manager will cause significantly worse outcomes.

Why Managers become Disengaged

Being disengaged can happen for several reasons. External demands may have broken the manager’s work systems. The manager may also be pursuing “enlightened distance” to avoid micromanagement, which has gone too far. Rather than digging into the details, they tell their team that they trust them, and encourage them to follow whatever makes sense to them. This culminates in the manager ignoring their team rather than empowering it. Managers may also be chasing energy and drift towards wherever energy accumulates in their life.

Chasing Energy in the Workplace

Executives who start looking elsewhere for energy, whether they’re falling behind on core work duties or becoming more involved in outside interests, typically do so because their role is either too challenging or not challenging enough. If a manager is overmatched by the role, you can help them identify and address their gaps. If the executive is undermatched by the role, it’s about finding ways to engage them in and out of their work.

When energy is missing from within their work, one solution may be to assign more work. However, this can miss the root cause of the disengagement. Executives may disengage from their work when they begin to believe that doing better work won’t make a difference. This is where managers need to come in and help them see that their work has a meaningful impact.


Ultimately, while micromanagers can be frustrating, they’re effective in moving things forward. Being disengaged as a leader can cause significantly worse outcomes. Ideally, managers should remain engaged with their teams without micromanaging. If a manager must drift into one behavior or another, it’s better to be a bit of a micromanager than to be disengaged. Finally, it’s essential to understand why managers become disengaged and work to solve these issues.

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