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Impoverished Leadership – Explained by a CEO with Examples, Pros/Cons

Updated June 22, 2021 by Carl Lindberg

During my career as a CEO, I have stumbled on some Impoverished Leaders. The Impoverished Leader shows hardly any care for people and relationships or output and performance. The impoverished leader does not really care about anything.

What is Impoverished Leadership?

Impoverished leadership is when a leader shows very little concern for people and very little concern for production. The impoverished leader is not interested in leading, and the followers are demotivated and see no need even to try to perform.

Keep on reading to learn more about the history of impoverished leadership, its explanation, pros and cons, and a few stories about impoverished leadership from my leadership career. Feel free to join our newsletter for free leadership insights.

Impoverished Management: Background

In the 1960s, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton built a graphical framework for different attitudes in leadership. This managerial grid involved five different styles of control based on two different types of leadership behaviors, namely concern for people and concern for production.

  • Concern for people involves the well-being, care, and importance given to employees and other human stakeholders.
  • Concern for production involves caring for output, results, and other non-human things.

In essence, we are talking about relationship orientation vs. task orientation, a division that is common in several leadership behavior studies. Refer to our articles on the Ohio State Leadership Studies and the Situational Leadership Model, for instance.

Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid does not include the possibility of switching between styles, making it a behavioral leadership theory rather than a contingency leadership theory.

The other four leadership styles of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid are Country Club Management, Authority-Compliance Management, Middle-of-the-Road Management, and Team Management.

(This background is an excerpt from our article on Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid.)

Impoverished Management Explained

Let us start by considering the meaning of the word Impoverished. According to Oxford Languages, impoverished has two meanings:

  • Made poor
  • Deprived of strength and vitality

Impoverished leadership is precisely that. Impoverished Management entails little concern for production, little concern for people, or even no concern for production or people. This type of manager hardly displays any concern for anything and only does the minimum required to avoid getting fired.

Impoverished Management is sometimes referred to as Indifferent Management. Both Impoverished and Indifferent say a lot about this leadership style, which is worth avoiding at all costs.

The Impoverished Management style is very ineffective and results in low employee engagement as well as low production: equally bad in both dimensions. The non-caring approach can be compared with a bad case of Laissez-Faire Leadership, also known as zero leadership, delegative leadership, or free-rein leadership.

Employees with a manager that is indifferent to results are unlikely to care about output at all. The low interest in people will also lead to low morale, poor team cohesion, and little teamwork.

Impoverished Management qualifies for the lowest position in the Blake and Mouton managerial grid, which is 1,1. Refer to the graph below.

Blake and McCanse, who continued developing Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, define Impoverished Management as “Exertion of minimum effort to get required work done as appropriate to sustain organization membership.”

Impoverished Leadership position in the Managerial Grid
Impoverished Leadership position in the Managerial Grid

Advantages and Disadvantages of Impoverished Leadership

There are no advantages to the Impoverished Leadership Style.

The disadvantages of the Impoverished Leadership Style are:

  • It leads to low or no performance and output
  • The low concern for people leads to low engagement and low motivation
  • It sets a poor example for others to follow: employees of an impoverished leader rarely bother to try

Please stay away from this leadership style as much as you can; it is a career killer for sure. I suggest you use the modern and versatile leadership styles based on Emotional Intelligence instead.

Impoverished Leadership – Examples from a CEO career

As a senior leader, it is critical to identify any impoverished leaders in your surroundings quickly. If you don’t recognize them and do something about them, they will slowly ruin the organization. It can be trickier than you think to find out who is an impoverished leader since most employees shy away from complaining about their manager. After all, they are worried that the person they are complaining to will simply inform their boss and do nothing, creating unnecessary risk for the person filing the complaint. Secondly, even if the impoverished leader doesn’t care about anything, they probably want to remain employed, which means they will often act, mask, or feign another leadership style.

Example of an Impoverished Leader

I remember a mid-manager from way back in the early days of my career that perfectly fits an impoverished leader’s bill. He was open to his team and showed them that he did not care at all about performance; it was all about looking busy enough to keep the job. He also talked down his team members so that they wouldn’t get promoted. Team output would drop if the performers were promoted, meaning that his team would perform less, and he did not want to increase his own efforts. One of the most telling things to his peers, of which I was one, was that he always volunteered for the non-work-related things, such as planning the summer party, or getting involved in the installation of a gym, redecorating the office, etc. With his important job, we were all astonished that he could possibly have time for these types of things.

He lasted many years, probably due to inaction from his boss, who must have known what was going on. When it was finally time for a restructuring activity, he was one of the first to go. No one missed him after he left, especially not his team.

You can learn more about the entire framework and the other styles in our articles here: Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, Country Club Management, Produce-or-Perish Management a k a Authority-Obedience Management.

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Sources: Refer to our in-depth article on Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid for reference information.

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