Simply put, becuase when leaders aren't engaged, no one is going to be engaged. If he's mailing it in, why should I give a ****?
We see it time and time again in corporate America. A leader has a bit of early success, then the results start to fall off a bit. Same leader tries to get back to what gave everyone hope early in their tenure. Try as they might, they can't replicate early results, and as it becomes evident that no one really expects them to be around for the long term, which causes the leader to do the worst thing possible.
The leader starts to disengage, to slip away from being fully present, even when his body is there. They're more passive, usually because they've done what they could do, and it hasn't worked out. They've developed an external locus of control. They've quit a little bit, they've stopped fighting, etc.
It's called leader disengagement. And your company/division/department/team can't win if this is your reality.
Here's a great real life example from the NFL. More on Rex Ryan missing "cut day" as the head coach of the New York Jets from the Washington Post:
"Rex Ryan called a personal timeout Saturday in order to attend his son’s first college football game and, this being Rex Ryan and the New York Jets being in a state of flux, he was greeted with a storm of criticism.
On the day of the deadline for reducing NFL rosters to 53 players, Ryan bolted from the Jets’ headquarters and headed for South Carolina, where the Tigers were playing Georgia and Ryan’s son, Seth, is a walk-on who was playing in his first college game.
The idea didn’t sit well with all of Ryan’s players. “[Rex has] got zero influence,” an unnamed source told the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta. “[He] doesn’t care and he is letting everyone know. He just shows up for his check. … It’s a big [expletive] to all the players.”
To be fair and balanced, some players and a lot of industry insiders were OK with Rex missing cut day. They thought it was good for him to go see his son. In the spirit of full reporting though, his son is a walk on and didn't play in the game, and was never expected to play.
Would you expect a Department head in a company to have anything less than full awareness or to be present when layoffs are happening at a company with 200 employees?
Don't be fooled. Rex Ryan missing cut day is an illustration of a guy who's given up, same as your VP of Sales that's missed quota for 2 straight years and stops going to meetings that require his attendance.
The biggest tipoff to leader disengagment you'll see is absenteeism, not anything outrageous, just an uptick that looks a bit odd. Another telling sign of leader disengagement is when the leader in question starts asking others to make decisions that he/she once wanted a strong voice in.
If your leaders aren't engaged, your employees won't be. Be on the lookout for the signs of leader disengagement, from the C-level all the way down to first level supervisor.