Actually the term "passive leadership" is an oxymoron since it is not leadership at all. It is someone who is in a leadership position but who does not lead his/her staff. It is deeply disempowering to staff for a number of reasons.
First, non-leadership leaves staff in a quandary. They often lead a team and a ministry. How do they contribute to the whole when there is not overall missional direction? They are forced by virtue of the passive leader to determine what that direction should be and you end up with multiple directions as different staff members fill the void of leadership in their own way.
Second, none of us want to waste our lives. Good staff see the potential around them and deeply desire to make a difference. The opportunity they see and the lack of missional direction create great frustration over opportunity wasted. The end result is cynicism toward the non leading leader and often the loss of good staff who are looking for meaningful direction.
Third, just because a leader is passive does not mean that they don't have opinions and this is one of the most frustrating aspects of passive leadership. Because passive leaders don't set the directional agenda their staff end up doing so. But, passive leaders often don't like what they see so they step in and either change or challenge the hard work that has been done. Thus staff are in a double bind. They are not given the information up front as to the direction and they face the prospect of being disempowered on the back end after they have done their work. It is truly a no win proposition.
Fourth, passive leaders are often threatened by those who step in to fill the void and good staff will try to do just that as organizations need and want directional focus. This creates tension between the passive leader and his/her staff and it is not the staff's doing but the natural result of a passive leader who is not leading. The passive leader wants to be in charge even though they don't know how to steer a healthy team in a healthy direction. Thus they live with an inner conflict that spills over into the team in unhealthy ways.
The bottom line is that no matter how good someone is in some area of work, if they cannot lead they should never be put in a leadership role. Passive leadership is not only bad leadership but it is deeply disempowering to everyone around the passive leader.
(Posted from Oakdale, MN)